best tracker What’s your sleep personality? Scientists discover 4 distinct patterns – and their impact on long-term health – Techss

What’s your sleep personality? Scientists discover 4 distinct patterns – and their impact on long-term health

WE spend a third of our lives asleep – but the way we do it varies hugely from person to person.

Some of us are serial nappers who love nothing more than a mid-afternoon snooze, while others struggle to get more than four hours of kip a night.

There are four distinct sleep patterns, according to scientists – which category do you fall into?

Scientists in the US have now identified four distinct sleep types and the impact each can have on long-term health. These are:

  1. Good sleepers
  2. Weekend catch-up sleepers
  3. Insomnia sleepers
  4. Nappers

Almost half of us fall into the insomnia and napper categories, but this is less than ideal, the researchers said.

These are “suboptimal” patterns which increase our risk of several killer conditions.

After 10 years, being an insomnia sleeper was associated with a 72 to 188 per cent higher risk of chronic health problems, like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression and frailty.

It did not, however, increased someone’s risk of respiratory conditions.

Meanwhile, nappers appeared to be more likely to develop diabetes, cancer and frailty.

Being a weekend catch-up sleeper or good sleeper was not associated with chronic conditions. 

Study author Soomi Lee, associate professor of human development and family studies at The Pennsylvania State University, said: “Our findings indicate a heightened risk of chronic conditions involved in suboptimal sleep health phenotypes, mainly insomnia sleepers.”

Scientists studied the sleep habits of 3,683 people at two points between 2004 and 2017.

This included sleep regularity, duration, efficiency and satisfaction, as well as daytime alertness.

They also recorded the number and type of health conditions each person had.

Good sleepers were characterised by “optimal” sleep habits across all data points.

This meant they were getting the recommended seven to nine hours of shut-eye a night, felt well-rested and could focus during the day.

Weekend catch-up sleepers on the other hand tended to get irregular sleep for short periods but longer sleep times on weekends or non-work days.

Sleep is considered irregular if there is one or more hours difference between working days and non-working days, and short if under seven hours a night.

Insomnia sleepers took a long time to fall asleep, only nodded off for short periods, and were extremely tired during the day.

And those who fell into the napper category slept well most of the time but took frequent daytime naps.

There are sleep hygiene behaviours that people could do to improve their sleep, such as not using cell phones in bed, exercising regularly and avoiding caffeine in the late afternoon

Professor Soomi Lee

Results showed that people were unlikely to change their sleep ‘personality’ over 10 years.

This was especially true for insomnia sleepers and nappers.

Dr Lee said: “These results may suggest that it is very difficult to change our sleep habits because sleep health is embedded into our overall lifestyle.

“It may also suggest that people still don’t know about the importance of their sleep and about sleep health behaviours.”

The findings, published in Psychosomatic Medicine, suggested that sleep patterns weren’t age related, but older adults and retirees were more likely to be nappers.

And those with a lower level of education and people facing unemployment had a higher chance of being insomnia sleepers.

“Sleep is an everyday behaviour,” Dr Lee said.

“But it is also modifiable. So, if we can improve sleep almost every day, what outcomes might we see after several months, or even several years?

“Better sleeping habits can make many significant differences, from improving social relationships and work performance to promoting long-term healthy behaviours and healthy ageing.

“We need to make more efforts to educate the public about good sleep health.

“There are sleep hygiene behaviours that people could do to improve their sleep, such as not using cell phones in bed, exercising regularly and avoiding caffeine in the late afternoon.”

The best sleep routine and environment

Thomas Høegh Reisenhus, TEMPUR® sleep specialist & sleep counsellor, reveals the key components of a good bedtime routine and environment…

A sure-fire way to facilitate a better night’s sleep is to practice good sleep hygiene.

Establish a sleep routine that works for you and stick to it. 

This will help your body establish a consistent, natural sleep-wake cycle which can do wonders for your overall sleep quality. 

As such, try to avoid making up for lost sleep with a lie-in. 

Instead of sleeping in, spend your morning reading a book in bed or having a leisurely coffee in the kitchen.

Ensure that your bedroom, bedding, and sleepwear are fit for purpose too. 

The ideal sleep environment is dark, quiet, and cool – much like a cave. 

If you find unwelcome sources of light are keeping you up, consider investing in an eye mask or black-out curtains.

Adding soft furnishings can be a great way to reduce noise, with the surfaces having an absorptive quality, but if this doesn’t work, consider embracing a soothing soundtrack to block it out.

In terms of temperature, try to keep your bedroom at 18°C. You can further reduce the risk of waking up due to overheating by ensuring that all your bedding and sleepwear is made with natural, breathable materials such as cotton and linen.

Bear in mind that everyone is different; what might work for most, may not work for you! 

Whilst knowing how much sleep you should get, how to overcome common barriers, and practicing good sleep hygiene can facilitate a great night’s sleep, if you continue to struggle with sleep or fatigue persistently, do not hesitate to visit a doctor or health professional for support.

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