How society messes with your sleep cycle

How Society Messes With Your Sleep Cycle

Is Your Current Sleep Cycle The Best For You?

When you go to bed, is it because you’re tired or because you need to get up at a certain time and want to make sure you get enough sleep?

Everyone has a chronotype, which is the sleep cycle that their body would naturally prefer, if left to its own devices. But society forces its own chronotypes on people, too. Maybe your perfect sleep cycle is from 2 a.m. to 10 a.m. But if you have a typical 9-to-5 workday, to get eight hours, you’d probably need to sleep from something like 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., or midnight to 8 a.m. If you work the night shift, you might end up having to get your shut-eye through the afternoon.

Individuals’ sleeping patterns are surely shaped by their jobs, their families, and their habits. But a new study shows that society can broadly shape these habits on a population level, as well. In the paper, published in Science Advances, Olivia Walch, Amy Cochran, and Daniel Forger of the University of Michigan look at data gathered from a smartphone app to see how sleep cycles vary in different countries and among different demographics.

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They designed the app, called Entrain, to help people deal with jet lag by offering recommendations for when they should sleep to adjust to their new time zone. When people sign up for the app, they’re given the option to submit their data for research by answering questions about when they usually go to bed, when they usually wake up, where they live, and whether they’re usually exposed to more indoor or outdoor light. Data from 5,450 users was included in this study.

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