If it seems like you’re getting less sleep in your 30’s, or sleeping more after you turn 50, it’s not just a coincidence. New research has found that the amount of time spent sleeping changes several times throughout one’s lifetime—and can even be different depending on your geographical location.
The University College London teamed up with two other research teams from the East Anglia and Lyon to take a deeper look at the findings from a neuroscience research project that’s currently underway where participants are playing the Sea Hero Quest game. In this game, scientists are using results that everyday people are contributing by playing. Their results are helping scientists learn more about spatial navigation and the brain and providing information for learning how the brain deals with neurodegeneration.
More than four million players have contributed their results from playing this game, and they have answered questionnaires about their location and sleep patterns. Based on these sleep pattern questions, researchers have information about sleep patterns all over the world. On average, most people sleep about 7 hours per night, and the youngest adults who were at least 19 years of age slept the most of any age group.
By the time people reached their later 20’s and early 30’s, sleep time declined until it plateaued at age 33. From 33 to 53, sleep patterns stayed the same; until after 53, when people began sleeping more again. These changes were noted across the board, regardless of location, education, or gender.
What is most interesting about this study is that the closer people live to the equator, the less sleep they got compared to others around the world. For instance, people in Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines slept the least, and the UK also reported less than average sleep. However, people in Eastern European countries (Czech Republic, Romania, Albania, etc.) slept as much as twenty to forty minutes more each night.
If you’re finding that you’re sleeping like a teenager again after your mid-50’s, these three phases of sleep patterns might account for it! Most people find that their sleep patterns change as they age due to reduction in the amount of melatonin that the brain produces, so we often hear that it’s harder to sleep as you age. Then again, if you find your need for sleep increases as you age, it’s worth remembering that sleep needs do change. Supplementing with melatonin can help promote healthy sleep patterns, so if you’re headed for a long trip (especially near the equator), it’s one supplement you might just want to pack.
A. Coutrot, A. S. Lazar, M. Richards, E. Manley, J. M. Wiener, R. C. Dalton, M. Hornberger, H. J. Spiers. Reported sleep duration reveals segmentation of the adult life-course into three phases. Nature Communications, 2022; 13 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-022-34624-8