Going to bed early could be considered as sexy as flossing your teeth… translation—it’s not. Despite the fact we know getting between seven to nine hours sleep on average is good for us and our health, in comparison to eating well and working out, it’s no secret that it’s the least popular of the wellness rituals we want to consciously invest in. Yet for the night owls who prefer staying up into the wee hours of the night, it could be more important than first thought. While previous studies focus on meeting a certain number of hours sleep per night, the latest scientific research suggests it’s not just the hours we clock but the time we choose to tuck ourselves in. According to the study published in the journal Sleep Medicine, going to bed earlier is found to be better for mental health, productivity, eating habits and general wellbeing—even if the number of hours you spend asleep doesn’t change.
As part of the research, conducted by the Universities of Birmingham and Surrey in the UK and Monash University in Australia, participants who went to bed late were asked to do three key things over three weeks: bring their body clocks forward—waking up and going to bed two to three hours earlier than usual, while also maintaining routine sleep/wake times on weekends and eating meals at the same time each day. The results? Night owls who adjusted their sleep patterns and turned in earlier for the night reported less depressed and stressed feelings, less daytime sleepiness while the researchers found it enhanced the regularity of a breakfast routine which then lead to better mental wellbeing and earlier mid-afternoon performance and productivity peaks (rather than evening). Sleep suddenly just got a little more sexy hey? And if still not convinced, here’s a few more findings to have you tweaking that body clock routine. Not only does science currently show that disturbances to the sleep/wake system have been linked to everything from mood swings, increase in morbidity and mortality rates and decline in cognitive and physical performance but it’s also now heavily linked to whether we eat well and get sufficient nutrients too.
In new research released in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey in the US, data suggests those who clock less than the seven recommended hours of sleep a night on average also consumed less vital nutrients. And we’re not talking a few. We’re talking lower amounts of all of the vitamins—from vitamins A, D, B1 as well as magnesium, niacin, calcium zinc and phosphorus. Interestingly too, the study found that women with poor sleepers who were able to up their nutrient dose (through dietary supplements) could show a potential reduction in poor sleep. What does this mean? Well, while the study couldn’t determine if chronic short sleep causes nutrient insufficiency or nutrient insufficiency causes short sleep, the results do show that a lack of zzz’s do affect our overall health and nutrient intake. And in less subtle terms… If you’re debating another night of binge-watching or working late into night versus some quality shut-eye, perhaps skip the Netflix and opt for a cosy date in under the sheets, your career, body and mind will benefit for it!