“Sleep is a beautiful thing.” Not only is sleep a popular hobby, especially among the teenage and young adult crowd, but it is unarguably essential to health and wellbeing. Researchers have found poor sleep to increase the risk for various mental and physical illnesses. With the possibility to improve such a wide array of health indicators, public health officials have looked towards sleep as a promising area for prevention.
A recent study published in SLEEP analyzed the longitudinal link between sleep patterns and health and wellbeing outcomes. Using data from the UK Household Longitudinal Study, researchers analyzed data on over 30,000 individuals over a 4-year time span. Sleep data was collected on sleep quality, sleep quantity and sleep medication use, and compared to physical and mental health questionnaires.
As hypothesized, better health outcomes were seen with more favorable sleep behaviors. The greatest effects were seen with improved sleep quality and the smallest effect with sleep duration. The study’s design does not allow for conclusions about specific health outcomes. Rather, it provides a larger snapshot of the topic.
This study opens doors for further research and public health campaigns. Our culture tends to value a hustle-and-bustle mindset, and minimizes the importance of relaxation. Prevention efforts that push for better sleep habits could have widespread benefits to our societies’ mental and physical health.
So how does this relate to you on a personal level? Improve your sleep and live healthier! Who knows? Maybe being more cognoscente of your sleep today will improve your life years down the road — Reduce stress. Improve memory. Lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. Increase happiness. While much is yet to be discovered on the link between sleep and health, you don’t have much to lose!
Start small tonight. Set the goal of going to bed at whichever time will allow your body the optimal amount of sleep before you have to get up for work or school in the morning. Your mind and body will thank you!
Until next time,