Rich people sleep better

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By Daniel Casillas

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recently revealed that wealthy people sleep better as their economic condition gives them certain comforts. Metro investigates the phenomenon.

Sleeping is a very important part of our lives. According to experts, it should take up to a third of our day. The World Health Organization recommends at least seven hours of sleep in a row for adults and 10-12 for minors. However, there are many factors that could have an impact on our time in bed. And economic status is one of them.

A recent study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that the more money someone earned, the more likely they were to get a full night’s rest, or at least the 7 hours recommended by the WHO.

The agency surveyed nearly 140k adults in the U.S. between 2011 and 2014 and found that among people earning 400 per cent above the poverty line in the country, 66.6% slept seven to eight hours a night. However, only 55 per cent of people living below the poverty line did so.

“We have known for a long time that the socioeconomic status also affects sleep. Actually, this is not only true for sleep but also physical and mental health more generally. Regarding sleep, there are probably several reasons for this finding. Among other aspects, people who are better off probably worry less about very basic aspects of their lives, such as how to make a living. Life satisfaction may overall be higher, perhaps they even have jobs that allow for flexibly adapting working hours to one’s individually preferred sleep-wake patterns,” Christine Blume, sleep researcher at the Centre for Chronobiology at the University of Basel, Switzerland, explained to Metro.

Other specialists point out that a higher or lower income can not only affect the emotional stability at bedtime, it can also determine the physical conditions in which we sleep, which in turn can affect the quality of sleep and therefore the number of hours.

“It is often the case that someone with less income or an unstable economic situation may sleep in places exposed to more noise and light at night. They may be less likely to have air conditioning, which can affect sleep on hot nights. It is also possible that low-income individuals may sleep in more dense bedrooms (for example, with more people per room),” Aric A. Prather, a sleep scientist at the University of California, San Francisco, the U.S., told.

In addition to economic status, there are other conditions that could affect our sleep. Those include environmental factors as noise and light exposure, as well as temperature. Sleep is also affected by substances including alcohol, illicit drugs, and caffeine. 

“Additionally, psychological factors including stress, anxiety, depression, and really anything that leads to excess cognitive arousal – this makes it hard to fall and stay asleep,” Prather added.

Experts recognize that sleep is not only important for the proper functioning of our body but is vital for maintaining life.

“Without sleep, we cannot survive,” Christine Blume concluded.

Four tips on how to improve your sleep

According to Aric A. Prather, a sleep scientist at the University of California, the U.S.:

  1. Keep a stable schedule, which often starts with maintaining a stable wake time seven days per week.
  2. Sleep hygiene is also important. Keeping your bedroom dark, quiet, and cool is key.
  3. Cutting out caffeine after noon and reducing or abstaining from alcohol in the evening will also help.
  4. It is also helpful to only go to bed when you are sleepy and if you are unable to sleep, don’t lay in bed for too long (more than 20 minutes) tossing and turning.

Christine Blume, sleep researcher at the Centre for Chronobiology at the University of Basel, Switzerland had the following to say:

How important is it to sleep well?

Sleep is one of the basic needs of virtually all animals, just as food, water and breathing. Unfortunately, many people in modern societies do not get the 7-9h of sleep per night experts recommend and they thus have a chronic sleep debt. Additionally, an estimated 30 per cent suffer from poor sleep quality. Common complaints include sleep not being refreshing, not being able to fall asleep or stay asleep, or waking up too early. 

What are the benefits of a good night’s sleep?

 Sleep serves vital purposes, wherefore rationalizing sleep is never a good idea. More specifically, it is essential to maintain physical and mental integrity including a healthy immune system. In this context, it has been shown that if animals are prevented from sleeping for several weeks, they eventually die from a systemic infection. Moreover, sleep is also important to maintain a healthy energy balance and shift work is for example one of the risk factors for being overweight. Finally, sleep also serves learning and the consolidation of memory traces formed during the day.  

What are the main factors that affect our sleep?

 Sleep can be understood as being regulated by two processes, which, in conjunction allow for consolidated periods of wakefulness during the day and sleep during the night. The first of these processes is a so-called ‘circadian’ process, a process that starts anew about every 24 hours. This process helps us sleep during the night but likewise helps us stay awake during the day. The second process is a so-called homeostatic process and can be imagined like a battery. The battery is recharged every night and during the day, it slowly empties. The emptying of the battery is parallelled by the build-up of the need for sleep. In the evening, when the need for sleep is high and the circadian process additionally helps us to prepare for the night, the ‘gate to sleep’ opens: we feel tired and ready to sleep.

How do we sleep better?

Only go to bed when you are tired, only use your bed for sleeping and sex, and make sure you get enough natural daylight during the day. 

 

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