Sleep is an essential function of life which allows your body and mind to recharge, while allowing your body to remain healthy and give you an extra fight mechanism against diseases (Sleep foundation Ireland, 2023). On average adults between the ages of 18 to 64 need between seven to nine hours of sleep per night. However, the reality of this is that this target is not being met. 35.2% of all adults in the U.S. report sleeping on average far less than seven hours per night. Every year vital research is being conducted to delve further into the science of sleep and to ensure that advancements are being made to help with disease resistance and overall wellbeing.
As this is such an important topic of interest in research today this article will explore the latest headlining clinical research studies that are taking place right now. World Sleep Day takes place on the 17th of March each year and thus there is no better time to get familiar with the hot topic studies that are trending right now.
Do humans need more sleep during the winter?
A research paper recently published in the Frontiers in Neuroscience journal has found that humans may potentially need more sleep during the winter (Seidler et al, 2023). The analysis of people undergoing sleep studies found that people get more REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep in the winter. REM stands for rapid eye movement and is directly linked to the circadian clock, which is affected by changing light.
According to the Sleep foundation, REM sleep is “a stage associated with dreaming and memory consolidation”.
Society and technology impose sleep and wake schedules on people, and this is apparent especially in urban environments with lots of light pollution. By theory, changing day length and light exposure over the course of the year could affect the duration and quality of our sleep.
This study aimed to determine objective sleep duration and architecture over 1 year in a large group of patients attending a neurologic/ psychiatric sleep laboratory. Sleep architecture is the basic structure of the participants sleeping patterns. A team of scientists at the Charité Medical University of Berlin recruited 292 patients who had undergone sleep studies previously (Massey, 2023).
The participants of the study were based in an urban environment with low natural light exposure and high light pollution, which affect any seasonality regulated by light. The scientists assessed the subjects sleep patterns and found subtle but striking changes across the seasons. Based on the findings, total sleep time appeared to be about an hour longer in the winter than the summertime. In the Autumn, other changes were seen as participants showed to have 40 minutes less deep sleep than the rest of the year. However, most notably was the fact that REM sleep was 30 minutes longer in the winter than summer.
These findings suggest that humans may benefit from accommodations which would allow them to respond more effectively to the changing seasons. Sleep research represents a vital area to tackle with regards to overall wellbeing improvement (The Journal, 2023).
Sleep patterns of students & the importance of daylight exposure
Another study gaining attention is on sleep patterns of students. Insight has shown that students fell asleep later in the evening and woke up later in the morning during the winter (Dunster et al, 2022). Coinciding with this, students also received less natural light exposure during the winter.
This study was published in the Journal of Pineal Research and results were consistent with previous studies (UW, 2022). Large differences between seasons in the solar timing of sleep and light exposure on both school and free days were found. This provides further reasoning to suggest that social time and the ability of students to remain active beyond natural dusk have the ability to override to a great extent , seasonal differences. These seasonal differences would result from life without a strict schedule and under natural photoperiod.
Therefore, it is evident that sleep time is highly synchronized with social time, a delayed timing of sleep is evident during the winter months. They also suggest that daily exposure to daylight is key to prevent this delayed phase of the circadian clock and thus circadian disruption that is typically exacerbated in high latitude winters.
Quality over quantity when it comes to sleep
And nonetheless good quality sleep over the amount of sleep is also gaining attention.
A recent headline ‘Good quality sleep can add years to peoples lives, study suggests’ is an interesting phenomenon as researchers show that quantity of sleep is not enough to show benefit, quality is key (Irish Times, 2023).
Findings from a recent study suggested that 8% of deaths from any cause could be associated to poor sleep patterns. Young people who had better sleep habits were less likely to die early. In this study, ‘good sleep’ was based on 5 different factors:
• ideal sleep duration of seven to eight hours a night;
• difficulty falling asleep no more than two times a week;
• trouble staying asleep no more than two nights a week;
• not using any sleep medication;
• and feeling well rested after waking up at least five days a week.
Researcher and co-author of the study, Dr Frank Qian, a clinical fellow in medicine at Harvard Medical School commented that:
“I think these findings emphasise that just getting enough hours of sleep isn’t sufficient. You really have to have restful sleep and not too much trouble falling and staying asleep”.
172,321 people participated in the National Health Interview Survey between 2013 and 2018. 54% of whom were women, average age was 50 years. The survey looked at the health of the US population and included questions about sleep and sleep habits.
The study found that, compared with people who had zero to one favourable sleep factors, those who had all five were 30% less likely to die for any reason, 21% less likely to die of causes other than heart disease or cancer.
These significant results showed that life expectancy was 4.7 years greater for men and 2.4 years greater for women, compared with those who had none or only one of the factors. Sleep hygiene refers to healthy sleep habits. To conclude, it is evident that those of whom practice good sleep hygiene can improve their sleep quality and thus their overall health.
Atlantia’s clinical solution to drive forward sleep research
Atlantia Clinical Trials has helped facilitate advancing sleep research. Many companies in the nutraceutical space are seeing opportunity to help meet the market demand for sleep aids. In a recent study completed by Atlantia on behalf of a sponsor, designed and conducted a human clinical trial to investigate the outcome of probiotic supplementation in sleep quality and its implications on immunity. This study was a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel group study, designed to assess the effectiveness & safety of a probiotic strain, when consumed once daily, on sleep quality.
This research is vital as it is poised to benefit society by providing greater understanding for the role of the microbiota-gut-brain axis in sleep. The relationship between probiotics and sleep is still largely misunderstood due to a lack of data from large clinical trials illustrating the beneficial effects of probiotics in improving sleep quality in the general population; similarly, whether immune, metabolic and stress related biomarkers are significantly different in people with poor sleep quality. Therefore, this is a great body of sleep research that will help approach sleep quality directly and will lead to ground-breaking discoveries for this complex system. Explore further into Atlantia’s Clinical Solution for this sleep study.
Year on year, Atlantia contributes to headlining research. Through Atlantia’s gold standard ICH-GCP controlled studies, key research findings are revealed, while also substantiating products with health claims, accelerating innovations route to market. Are you interested in setting up a call with Atlantia? Meet our team today, to discuss your future clinical project. Book now!
Dunster, G.P. et al. (2022) “Daytime light exposure is a strong predictor of seasonal variation in sleep and circadian timing of university students,” Journal of Pineal Research, 74(2). Available at: https://doi.org/10.1111/jpi.12843.
Getting good sleep could add years to your life, study suggests (2023) The Irish News. Available at: https://www.irishnews.com/magazine/science/2023/02/23/news/getting_good_sleep_could_add_years_to_your_life_study_suggests-3084765/ (Accessed: March 3, 2023).
Humans might not hibernate but may still need more winter sleep, study suggests (2023) TheJournal.ie. Available at: https://www.thejournal.ie/hibernation-human-sleep-study-humans-do-not-hibernate-but-new-research-suggests-we-might-need-more-sleep-during-the-winter-the-analysis-of-people-undergoing-sleep-studies-found-that-people-get-more-5997716-Feb2023/ (Accessed: March 6, 2023).
Massey, N. (2023) Do you get enough shut eye? study suggest humans need more sleep in winter, Irish Independent. Independent.ie. Available at: https://www.independent.ie/life/health-wellbeing/do-you-get-enough-shut-eye-study-suggest-humans-need-more-sleep-in-winter-42346399.html (Accessed: March 3, 2023).
Seidler, A. et al. (2023) “Seasonality of human sleep: Polysomnographic data of a neuropsychiatric sleep clinic,” Frontiers in Neuroscience, 17. Available at: https://doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2023.1105233. (Accessed: March 3, 2023).
Sleep statistics - facts and data about sleep 2023 (2023) Sleep Foundation. Available at: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/sleep-facts-statistics (Accessed: March 3, 2023).
Trouble falling asleep at night? Chase that Daytime Light, study shows (no date) UW News. Available at: https://www.washington.edu/news/2022/12/12/winter-sleep-study/ (Accessed: March 3, 2023).
Why do we need sleep? (2023) Sleep Foundation. Available at: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/why-do-we-need-sleep#:~:text=Sleep%20is%20an%20essential%20function%20that%20allows%20your,Without%20enough%20sleep%2C%20the%20brain%20cannot%20function%20properly