The Secret for Sleeping a Bit More, According to Science

We know that sleeping is a pleasure and very few people can do it well. The moment we try to wake up to start our day can be so heavy that we just want to sleep a little longer.

We also know that in general, average teenagers usually need eight to ten hours of sleep at night. Unfortunately, these numbers are not met.

Previous suggestions from scientists

Previously, scientists recommended that teenagers enter classes an hour later so they can get some more sleep. They also suggested that, in order to fall asleep, teenagers should stay away from computer screens, cell phones, etc.

As these practices were very difficult to implement, some studies and tests were carried out, which consist of exposing people to flashing lights at night, which proved to be a rather unusual but effective strategy, according to the results obtained.

The strategy

The results were obtained by scientists at the Stanford Center for Sleep Sciences and Medicine, with these tests saying that adolescents who were exposed to both two hours of flashing lights before sleeping and cognitive behavioral therapy slept on average for 43 more minutes.

Jamie Zeitzer, Ph.D., lead author of the study, commented that this test is the first of its kind that shows that undergoing short flashes of light – called flash therapy – can help people, especially teenagers, in which the hormone release cycle that controls fatigue and also helps regulate the circadian rhythm.

The results

The conclusions of the study were published last week in the JAMA Network Open that this treatment with flashes of light can help young people change their circadian rhythm for the better, thereby achieving two important things:

  • Young people went to sleep earlier
  • They slept a little longer than expected

But what does this really mean?

There are about 351 genes that affect whether you are a person who gets up early or one who stays up at night since circadian rhythms are genetically linked. Therefore, night owls tend to feel the most tired at late night and sleep when the sun is rising or even later in the morning, while those who get up early experience the opposite.

Other studies

According to other research, it is believed that circadian rhythms are not fully defined. For example, exercising or playing football at a certain time accelerates the circadian rhythm, which can make you feel tired early at night, and be ready for a new day in the morning, also early. So, if you do exercise regularly, you probably fall asleep faster than a horse in the Breeders Cup race.

On the other hand, exposure to natural light in the morning and eating almost immediately after waking up showed the potential to help people who do not have the habit of sleeping early, to change these rhythms for almost two hours.

Many times, regardless of whether the adolescents are nocturnal or morning people, most of them go through the phase of being “overnighters”.

Teenagers who go through the “sleep delay” stage make it much harder to go to sleep before or around 11 pm. The idea of ​​this whole study, including therapy, is to redesign this phase to make it easier to wake up before 7 am.

Conducting the Zeitzer study

The researcher, along with his team, divided 102 students into two groups.

  • Group 1: He slept with a slight blinking light for 3 milliseconds every 20 minutes, during the last two hours of sleep.
  • Group 2: It was exposed to a lower intensity of light, with only 3 flashes. In theory, it’s not enough to cause a change in circadian rhythm.

On the other hand, the researchers cited: “Not everyone has the same sensitivity to light during sleep because it can be uncomfortable for them.”

Concluding

Most important of all, flash therapy did not directly affect sleep, but when combined with cognitive-behavioral therapy once a week for 3 weeks, showing significant results at bedtime.

On average, the adolescents who received both therapies (light and CBT) were those who managed to sleep 27 minutes before and slept for 43 more minutes.

These studies demonstrated a simple way to readjust the circadian rhythm to align more with the schedules and morning chores.

For now, if circadian light is used correctly, maybe the tool that many night owls have been waiting for.

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