We’re just not sleeping like we used to.
An annual Mattress Firm survey of 2,000 consumers asking about sleep habits finds the amount of shut-eye people are now getting is down significantly from last year, from six hours and 15 minutes a night on average to five and a half hours. That’s not good.
It can throw your whole body out of whack, says UTHealth and McGovern Medical School Asst. Professor Dr. Kristin Eckel Mahan, who studies body clocks and sleep cycles. “What, as a circadian biologist, we hope people do, is start being more faithful about when they go to bed and when they get up, because consistency seems to be very important to your internal clock.” We’re much better at keeping our children on consistent schedules with regular bedtime and wake time than we are for ourselves. And your body clock is monitoring more than just your sleep, she explains. “It puts your peripheral clocks, like the clock in your liver and antipose tissue, on a different time zone than your brain.” Your brain follows a light-dark cycle, but your food follows a different 24-hour cycle driven by food, and if you’re eating at the wrong time – staying up late and eating late – you can throw metabolism, digestion and tissue repair, among other essential physiological functions, out of whack.
Aiming for eight hours nightly is still the best advice, and naps are always effective sleep banks.