September 11, 2020

Credit: Donald Iain Smith / Getty Images

People have been reporting all kinds of strange sleep habits during the pandemic, and, according to sleep experts, it makes sense. Dr. Rebecca Spencer, a professor of brain sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and Dr. Amita Sehgal, a molecular biologist at the University of Pennsylvania, know that the sleep we get can be a reflection of the lives we lead. 

We dive into how the stresses and strains of these unpredictable times - including greatly increased screen use - have disrupted our natural biological rhythms, and find out what it takes to get a good night’s rest.

Main Takeaways:

Sleep needs are highly individualized and vary not just by age but also by person. Some of us need much more sleep than others, even from birth. Indeed, the idea that there are “morning people” and “night people” is even supported by science. But no matter what your sleep needs are, Dr. Sehgal says that lots of Americans just aren’t getting enough sleep. 

Our circadian sleep-wake cycle is not the only internal clock that our bodies follow. Over the course of a day, bodies go through a variety of 24-hour cycles. For instance, our blood pressure and temperature are different in the morning than they are at night, but, just like our sleep cycle, those cycles can get confused by the way we live our lives. Eating late at night or being exposed to too much light once the sun is down can throw off our internal clocks. 

Bad sleep habits can impact everything from our memory to our weight, and even our life expectancy. Dr. Spencer says the key to sleeping well is a consistent bedtime routine where you go to bed and wake up at the same time.

More Reading:

Body and Mind, sleep, Amita Sehgal, Rebecca Spencer, neuroscience

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