There just never seems to be enough time in the day. And when we have a lot on in our work and personal lives, sleep is one of the first things to face the cut. Somewhat unhelpfully then, we’re often told that in order to be less stressed, we need to sleep more. However findings from Finnish physiological analytics company, Firstbeat, released last week suggest that sleeping more might not be the answer.
They found that though men, on average, sleep for less time than women, they are less stressed. Not only this, but they are spending more of their sleep time in deep sleep recovery. This means that not only do they sleep less, they’re also sleeping better and waking up more rested! It appears that even when sleeping, women are at a disadvantage.
Firstbeat’s findings come from studying 16,219 days (44.5 years) worth of detailed round-the-clock heartbeat recordings, one of the largest of such samples ever collected in the UK. So if it is the case that women are getting sleep quantity over quality, just how do we attempt to change this? If we want to save sleeping time and maximise our energy, it might be that we first need to make some lifestyle changes that can help to both relieve stress and allow for a deeper sleep.
Wednesday is the day for productivity.
If you’re wondering when you’re going to get the best quality sleep, Tuesday is the most efficient night sleep of the week in terms of recovery. When we reach a deep enough sleep to hit the recovery state, this is the one that tops up our resources, enabling us to better cope with any challenges life throws our way. So if you have any important tasks to do, here’s a good excuse as any to leave them until Wednesday before you attempt to face them!
Enjoy your lie in on a weekend, but don’t expect to feel more rested!
More sleep doesn’t necessarily mean more recovery. Firstbeat found that while we tend to get the most sleep on a Friday and Saturday, it was also on these two nights that we spent the least amount of time in recovery. This is most probably down to the fact that it’s the weekend when people tend to up their alcohol consumption, which stops us from falling into a deep sleep. That’s why, even if you have slept for hours after a heavy night, you may find that you’re still exhausted the next day.
On average, it takes your body about an hour to process a unit of alcohol. Anything over a couple of drinks is likely to impact on your sleep, so if you want to maximise your recovery try to stop drinking booze a few hours before you go to bed and switch to water instead. You’ll thank yourself for it in the morning!
Destress to sleep, don’t sleep to destress.
Men are less stressed than women. And though women sleep for a longer period of time, men sleep more efficiently. What this means is men spend a shorter time sleeping, sleep better and deeper in this time, and are less stressed overall. Women on the other hand, spend a longer time asleep, but are less rested, and more stressed. These findings suggest that the more stressed we both are and feel, the less well we are going to sleep as a result. It may not be in our best interests then to simply try and sleep for longer if our stressed states are only going to lead to a unrested sleep.
Exercise yourself into a deep sleep.
Firstbeat found that the fitter you are, the less stressed you will be. You also will spend a higher percentage of the time you spend asleep in a recovery state, which means you’ll sleep deeper and feel better for it.
Given that they have found that there is a correlation between high levels of fitness and low levels of stress, rather than attempting to sleep more when stressed, it may be a more productive use of time to go spend an hour in the gym, or at a yoga class, in order to combat stress and lead to a better night’s sleep.
Unfortunately, it would appear that we can’t just sleep away our stresses, but if we can help alleviate them we might find ourselves in a state which will enable us to better cope with stress when it hits!
Photo credit: Forever Photography
Lifestyle Editor, Girls Talk London
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