A new study from Norway explored sex-and-age-based differences in bedtime habits and sleep-environment preferences. Roughly 1,000 adults weighed in on such hot-button issues as reading in bed and using blackout shades. And you'll never guess what they said. Or maybe you will.
When it comes to learning how people sleep, a little information goes a long way. Because, as public-health analyses have repeatedly shown, differences in sleep duration and sleep quality often follow demographic patterns. For instance, older people typically get less sleep than younger ones; insomniacs are more likely to be women; sleep-apnea sufferers are disproportionately male. These and other differences are well-observed but, in many cases, poorly understood. A lot of studies have looked at the role of biological and social factors in shaping sleep and causing sleep disorders. But sleep lifestyle choices (aka anything that falls under the "sleep hygiene" umbrella) also inform how well and how much people rest. So researchers at the Haukeland University Hospital Norwegian Competence Center for Sleep Disorders and the University of Bergen sought to learn more about sleep hygiene factors that are widely recognized as important but, in their view, under-studied.
The study involved a nationally representative group of men and women who ranged in age from 18 to 91 years old. Participants filled out survey questions about bedroom temperature, blackout curtains, sleeping positions, levels of bed and pillow comfort, electronic media in bed, reading in bed and changing bed sheets. Here are some highlights from their findings:
- More than a quarter of participants said they use e-media (tablets, phones, computers) every night after going to bed, whereas just over half said they never get out devices after hitting the sack. Young adults were far more likely to engage in this very un-sleep-hygienic behavior than those in older age groups, particularly the over-60 crowd.
- Unsurprisingly, older participants were more likely than youngs to cuddle up with real books in bed. But, across all age groups, participants were most likely to say they never, ever read in bed.
- While most participants said they put new sheets on their beds at least every two weeks, men were far more likely than women to admit they didn't know how often they change their sheets. (I think it's fair to infer from this data point that these men don't change their own bed sheets.)
- Blackout curtains were popular across all age groups, as 63 percent of participants said they relied on them to keep natural light out of their sleeping quarters.
- Almost all participants had a preferred sleeping position — only 6 percent checked the whatever box — and side-sleeping was by far the most popular. The least popular? Supine (lying on your back), which is good, researchers explained, because face-up sleeping is associated with snoring and sleep apnea.
Now that we know who's keeping Norway's blackout shade market afloat (everyone!) and who's hitting the paperbacks after saying "God natt," the next step is to see how these PM behavior differences influence sleep and the development of sleep disorders.