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  • Writer's pictureSophie Bostock, PhD

What’s more important: sleep consistency, or sleeping for the right amount of time?



For years we’ve been told that 7+ hours of sleep is recommended for good health, but it may be that a consistent sleep-wake pattern is just - if not more - as important…


Sleep Consistency and Survival

This study used data from the UK Biobank study. It found that adults with the most consistent sleep pattern - or highest Sleep Regularity Index - were more than 30% less likely to die over almost 8 years of follow up than those with the least consistent sleep patterns.


Adults with the most consistent sleep pattern - or highest Sleep Regularity Index - were more than 30% less likely to die over almost 8 years of follow up than those with the least consistent sleep patterns.


This relationship remained significant, even after adjusting for age, socioeconomic status and other variables - including sleep duration. The amount of time people spent asleep was a much weaker predictor of survival.


This sounds positive if you're able to wake up at the same time 7 days a week, but what does it mean for shift workers?


Well, in a way it’s not new news.. we’ve known for decades that night shift work increases health risks because of the disruption to circadian rhythms. Crucially, this paper adds weight to the evidence that sleep consistency could be protective for ALL of us ❤️‍🩹.. whether we work shifts or not.


KEY POINT: Researchers recommend aiming for a 1 hour window for both going to bed and waking up in the morning.


Ref: Winfred et al (2024) Sleep regularity is a stronger predictor of mortality risk than sleep duration: A prospective cohort study


This study doesn’t prove that increasing the consistency of your sleep improves health.. we’ll need to wait for trials to explore that.. but I often get feedback from people that ditching their weekend lie-ins actually gives them more energy.. Worth a try? 🤔


(Caveat: ditching the lie in works if you get enough sleep during the week! I'd suggest it's not worth sacrificing sleep time in favour of consistency.. we ideally need both!)




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