We’ve all experienced it – waking up early in the morning can be really hard, and even if you do wake up, you’re just not productive; and then, in the night, you just can’t go to sleep – you stay up too late, it gets even harder to wake up the next day and the cycle continues. Now, a group of scientists propose a solution for that problem, and I really think we should hear them out: they think that we should just start our day later.

Waking up early in the morning can be really hard. Image via Ning.

After analyzing results from 124,517 American adults on their sleep and work habits, as recorded in the American Time Use Surveys from 2003 to 2011, they found that when we start our day early, we simply don’t sleep enough. Dr. Mathias Basner of the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine and his colleagues report that if we would start our day later, we would sleep more and be more productive.

“Results show that with every hour that work or educational training started later in the morning, sleep time increased by approximately 20 minutes,” explains the press release. “Respondents slept an average of only 6 hours when starting work before or at 6 a.m. and 7:29 hours when starting work between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m.”

It’s still not clear why some people tend to sleep less and less, but that doesn’t mean we can’t find solutions – and this is exactly what this study did. They didn’t try to figure out why this problem occurs, they just showed how we can fight it.

“Chronic sleep restriction is prevalent in the U.S. population and associated with increased morbidity and mortality. The primary reasons for reduced sleep are unknown. Using population data on time use, we sought to identify individual characteristics and behaviors associated with short sleep that could be targeted for intervention programs”, the paper’s abstract writes.

While some (very few) people can manage with fewer hours of sleep, most people need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep. Eight hours is generally considered to be the magic number. A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control shows that a third of workers only get around six, which leads not only to health and psychological problems, but also to decreased productivity. Recently, scientists found that more and more people exhibit what is called ‘sleep procrastination‘ – putting off sleep more and more. If you get caught in such a cycle of sleeping more and more into the night and finding it harder and harder to wake up in the morning, research suggests a week of camping outside the city could reset your biological clock and help you return to a normal sleep pattern.

Journal Reference: Mathias Basner, MD, PhD, MSc; Andrea M. Spaeth, PhD; David F. Dinges, PhD. Sociodemographic Characteristics and Waking Activities and their Role in the Timing and Duration of Sleep. http://dx.doi.org/10.5665/sleep.4238

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