I’m going to share a study about sleep—supposedly the largest real-world sleep study in history.
It seems appropriate to talk about today, both because nearly every person I talked with on Sunday was sleep-deprived after turning the clocks ahead—and frankly, because I’m pretty darn tired myself.
Researchers at the Brain and Mind Institute at Western University in Canada say they asked 44,000 people to track their sleep over a three-day period, and then to take a series of cognitive and neurological tests.
That’s a big sample size, they say, and they were also quite proud of having focused their research on real-life conditions, as opposed to the lab. Neuroscientist Adrian M. Owen, who led the study, explained:
"Obviously there have been many smaller studies of people in laboratories. But we wanted to find out what sleep is like in the real world. How do real people sleep? How much sleep do they get and what effect is it having on their brain?"
After synthesizing the data from a total of more than 132,000 person-nights of sleep, they were able to graph length of sleep against test performance. Owen's research associate, Conor Wild, explained the results:
"The optimum amount of sleep to keep your brain performing at its best was between seven to eight hours every single night.”
I know that minimum amount of sleep won’t be a surprise; it’s what doctors, popular press, and probably your mom have told you for years. But, it’s nice to see it documented in some quantifiable work.
Plus, there was another finding, Wild added: Those who exceeded the maximum suggested sleep time "were equally as impaired as those who slept too little."
As for why? That's a topic for further study, informed by the massive trove of data they've now collected.
Now, I suspect for most of us, the idea of getting "too much sleep" is probably a dream. According to Gallup, the average for U.S. adults is about 6.8 hours per night, so not too far off the minimum—although about 40 percent say they rarely get more than six hours.
There certainly have been times in my life when I’ve sacrificed sleep in order to take care of my family and work to build things. I’ll bet you might be able to say the same.
Because as my colleague Jessica Stillman has written over on Inc.com (one of my favorite insights, although kind of a depressing one in a way), if you have five priorities—
—you generally get to pick three. For many of us, sleep suffers.
Speaking of which: Tomorrow's another day, and as I write this, it will be here in fewer than seven hours. Do as I say, in other words, not as I do.
7 other things worth your time
In the U.S., $1400 stimulus payments started hitting bank accounts this past weekend. If you think you’re eligible but haven’t received one, here’s what to do. (CNBC)
Ford is about to add the first woman member of the Ford family to the company’s board in its 118-year history. Alexandra Ford English, 33, joined the company in 2017, after working at Gap Inc. and Tory Burch. She’s currently a director of corporate strategy. Thing I admit I didn’t realize until today: “the Ford family has controlled the majority of Ford stock voting shares since it went public in 1956.” (CNN Business)
Sports news: After last year’s NCAA college basketball tournaments were canceled due to Covid, the men’s bracket was set Sunday. Also, NFL quarterback Drew Brees, a sure-thing Hall of Famer, retired after 20 years in the league. (ESPN, Fox News)
About a quarter of members of Congress have not gotten vaccinated, with some members refusing to do it. It’s “fueling a debate about when the chamber can return to its normal rules of operation.” (Axios)
Disney+ is only 16 months old, but its subscriber growth puts it on a path to be bigger than Netflix by 2024. Unclear how many subscribers are like my wife and me, who signed up just to watch Hamilton, and then forgot about it for a few months. (The Guardian)
If you post on social media about a speed trap in the UK, you’ll now risk a £1,000 fine, under a new interpretation of a 1996 law. (Fox Business)
Yo-Yo Ma, who had his cello with him when he went to get his second vaccine jab over the weekend in Pittsfield, Mass., wound up playing an impromptu 15-minute concert in the post-vaccine waiting area, at the request of a nurse. Here’s some of the video.
Thanks for reading. Photo courtesy of Pixabay. I’ve written about this study at Inc.com. If you’re not a subscriber, please sign up for the daily Understandably.com email newsletter—with thousands and thousands of 5-star ratings from happy readers.
And of course, please share Understandably! Can you think of someone person who might be drinking his or her coffee right now without it? Thanks in advance!
Finally, if you liked this post, please click that little heart icon below. Comments (link below, I hope) are always welcome, and if you reply to this newsletter, it will go straight to my inbox. As this list has grown it’s become harder to respond to everyone, but I do read everything that comes in, and I reply to as many as I can.
I never believe those people who say they can function on 4 or just 6 hours of sleep... It's a receipe for bad decisions, bad behavior, followed by a crash and burn.
Thanks for the story on Hannah Glasse. What a hard life she lived. I wonder what she’d think of the fact that we can buy her book still and have it delivered the next day.