Health and Healthcare Systems

What's the formula for a better night's sleep? 10 things to read to find the answer

Sleep: A cabin with a starry night sky in the background.

Experts say that, on average, adults should get at least 7 hours of sleep each night. Image: Unsplash/Eric Ward

Tom Crowfoot
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  • This round-up explores 10 articles on on sleep and how it affects your body and mind.
  • From creative bursts before bedtime to the power of sleep training, this essential reading will help you understand not just how to sleep better, but the impact a good night's rest has on many other aspects of your life.

1. Tired all the time? Here’s a formula for the perfect night’s sleep

Multiple research projects have shown people around the world are not getting enough sleep. According to a recent study of half a million people, we should be getting 7 hours of sleep each night.

How much sleep you should be getting at different stages of life.
The amount of sleep we need changes through the different stages of life. Image: American Sleep Association

The Sleep Doctor recommends establishing a “sleep hygiene” routine, which ranges from avoiding caffeine after noon to sleeping and waking at the same time each day.

Find out how else you can get a perfect night's sleep.

2. We are at our most creative just before we fall asleep, scientists say

“Sleep is often seen as a waste of time and productivity,” says Delphine Oudiette in a study by researchers at the Paris Brain Institute and the sleep pathology department at the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital.

Despite this belief, it turns out we reach a creativity 'sweet spot', called hypnagogia, in the phase just before deep sleep.

Discover the technique you can use — involving napping while holding a sphere — to tap into this creativity.

3. How to stop 'doomscrolling' and get the sleep you need: Radio Davos

Since the pandemic, many people find themselves 'doomscrolling' at night - the act of getting hooked into scrolling through bad news on your phone. This can be particularly damaging to your sleep and mental health.


Find out more about 'doomscrolling' in this episode of Radio Davos.

4. How sleep training can ease symptoms of depression in older adults

Not getting enough good-quality sleep is a struggle shared by 89% of US adults. Poor sleep has been proven to put people at risk of developing depression. Yet cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can help tackle this issue, by helping people to break negative thought patterns at bedtime, for example, "I can never sleep".

One trial found that adults receiving CBT for insomnia were two times less likely to develop depression than those who went without CBT.

Learn more about how sleep training can improve your mental health.

5. This sleep habit could improve your mental health

A study, published in Nature’s npj Digital Medicine journal, suggests that irregular sleeping and waking times increase the risk of developing depression. In fact, this could even be more detrimental to mental health than not getting enough sleep.

Too little or poor-quality sleep also reduces your body's immunity to infections such as the common cold.

Learn more about how to improve your sleep and health at the same time.

6. Sleep deprivation is affecting your immunity and mental and physical health

“There is no major health system within your body or operation within your brain, that isn’t wonderfully enhanced by sleep when you get it, or demonstrably impaired when you don’t get enough.”

Dr Matthew Walker, a professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley

Walker highlights some of the following consequences of sleep deprivation in his research:

Learn more about sleep deprivation.

7. Here's why a little bit of exercise can improve your sleep quality

According to research, both short-term and regular exercise can lead to better sleep. While regular aerobic exercise has been shown to help people fall asleep faster and wake up less during the night, research into people who do regular resistance training (such as weightlifting) has revealed that they have better subjective sleep quality.

So how does exercise actually help you sleep? Discover why here.

8. Why the quality of your sleep matters more than the duration

Good sleep quality is associated with a stage of sleep known as “slow-wave sleep”. There are four stages of sleep, which cycle every 90 minutes. Stages one to three are referred to as non-rapid eye movement sleep (non-REM) and stage four is REM sleep, where your eyes move rapidly behind your eyelids. Stage three involves deep sleep, which is where slow-wave sleep occurs.

Slow-wave sleep leaves you feeling refreshed and is a good indicator of sleep quality. Learn more about the study on military recruits that showed why quality is more important than quantity when it comes to sleep.

9. Here's why ‘sleeping on it’ helps you better manage your emotions and mental health

When we are sleep deprived, the connections weaken between the two areas of our brain which are involved with emotional responses. Therefore, not only do we react more intensely to a situation, but the reaction is also harder to change. If we manage our emotions less effectively, a knock-on effect on our mental health is experienced.

Explore more about the relationship between sleep and emotions.

10. Scientists find a link between Alzheimer's disease and sleep patterns

US scientists have found evidence in mice that the cells which help keep the brain healthy and prevent Alzheimer’s disease also follow a circadian rhythm. Our circadian rhythm is an internal 24-hour cycle that controls things like sleep, digestion and appetite.

This means that sleeping at a different time to usual or being exposed to light late at night can throw the internal "clock" out of sync. Disruption to this cycle is linked to a number of health problems, including mental health disorders, cancer, and Alzheimer’s.

Read more on the link between Alzheimer's disease and sleep patterns.

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