As a good night’s sleep role in all aspects of our wellbeing and performance takes greater prominence in the news and on our collective conscience, a number of recent studies have stood out for their particularly interesting findings. Here, we share a few of our highlights.
In an epidemiological study conducted by nutritional scientists at the University of Leeds, a link was found between the amount of fruit and vegetables consumed and the quantity of sleep. Both vitamin C and carotenoids were documented in the blood of study participants recording optimum hours of sleep, while those eating fewer than 200g of fruit and veg each day tended to either under or oversleep relative to the recommended eight hours.
Contrary to what you might have read about the rush of adrenaline associated with evening exercise, it turns out evening workouts are unlikely to prevent you from clocking off at the desired time. Not long ago, sports scientists at ETH Zurich traced 23 previous studies on the matter to find quite the opposite: that the time that many evening trainers spent in slow-wave sleep actually increased.
It was the studies they observed that timed sleep relative to particularly intense workouts ending just one hour before bed that proved to have a somewhat negative impact. Overall, though, the link between evening exercise and sleep may have been overstated.
Some say it’s laughter; researchers at the University of Tübingen, however, say sleep is the best medicine. A study published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine this year found that a restful night’s sleep has the potential to enhance the efficiency of T cell responses – a type of white blood cell that’s critical to the body’s immune response.
April 2019 saw the largest study of its kind examining how sleep is linked to our genetic coding. Funded by the Medical Research Council, data from over 85,000 participants wearing accelerometers such as Fitbits for seven days was analyzed alongside their genetic coding.
Among the discoveries was a link between an uncommon variant of a gene called PDE11A and the length and quality of sleep. Previously, this gene has also been looked into for the treatment of people with neuropsychiatric disorders associated with mood stability.
Harvard Business Review puts its discovery of a link between seniority in your career and more sleep down to two possible explanations – either that with the help of assistants and middle-managers, they do less and have more time for sleep, or that they possess the wisdom and discipline to maintain a high level of performance without burning out.
Whichever is correct, it’s bad news for non-executive leaders, 68% of whom only get five to seven hours a night. At this level, you’re most likely to stay up late to catch up on emails and other tasks that couldn’t be finished in the working day.
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