Wellness

The scientific case for snooze buttons. Starting school 15 minutes later showed significant benefits in kids

Better sleep hygiene could combat the global sleep epidemic.

Better sleep hygiene could combat the global sleep epidemic.

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We crave sleep. So deep is our sleep greed that every alarm on the planet (minus roosters) is designed to offer us the additional, complementary and traditional 9 minutes more slumber, even after a full night's sleep. And we almost always re-up and take it.  

The reason for that, humans of planet earth, is we rarely get a proper night's rest. In fact, it's a global epidemic. For years, scientists have been looking at the ways we burn the candle at both ends and the detrimental ways we're damaging our bodies and minds for every sacrificed minute of rest. Still, across almost all demographics worldwide, we just don't get enough shut eye.   

A recent study published in the online journal Sleep Medicine provided strong evidence that delaying the school day by as little as 15 minutes could help battle the ill effects of sleep deprivation. Following adolescents in Hong Kong, one of earth's least sleepy cities, the study proved that even a marginal increase in sleep had, forgive me, eye opening results. The extra sleep time for Asian teens significantly improved their mental health, bettered their prosocial behaviours, bolstered their peer relationships, enhanced their attentiveness, and lessened both their emotional and behavioural problems. Other studies echo those findings in adults too. If 15 minutes seems like it'd be too small to make so big a dent in the pillow of restfulness, you're underestimating the power of sleep.

Sleep deprivation is torture. Not figuratively either. It was once a textbook "enhanced interrogation technique" used by agencies like the CIA. And so heinous are its effects on the human body and mind that it's been widely criticized (and banned) as far too brutal. Depriving the body of sleep tops the charts as one of the most harmful things that can be done to a human. And yet we do it to ourselves every night. Though not always willingly.

Over 40% of Canadians are affected by some form of sleep disorder (some of which are higher on the eesh factor than others). Dr. Frank Ryan, a consultant for the Sleep Disorders Program at the University of British Columbia is adamant that poor sleep hygiene night after night can exacerbate and trigger serious health issues down the line. Things like high blood pressure, heart failure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and depression are all linked to sleep deprivation. Even without disorders impeding our sleep routine, long work days, pounding caffeine, social obligations, parenting, a desire to enjoy a little pre-bed downtime on your favorite screen device (banish bluelight screens from your bedroom btw) all stretch out our waking hours and affect not just the quantity but the quality of our sleep.

Canadians, just like the rest of the world, simply don't clock in enough Zzzzs. Ryan says though we're all guilty of shaving off a few hours of slumber here and there, it's best to control that deficit and pursue good sleep hygiene fiercely. The sweet spot for sleep health in adults is seven solid hours nightly, and you should honour every minute. The reason, he says, is you can never get that lost rest back. "The problem is over time, you incur a sleep debt which you can never fully repay," says Ryan. That payback does come eventually though: in an increased risk to your long-term health.

So tonight, climb into bed an hour earlier with a good book and without a screen device (you don't need to check your Facebook notifications again, it's probably just your dentist's birthday — send a gift emoji tomorrow with #betterlatethannever). If you're really good and lights out comes earlier, you can hit that snooze button with bit more abandon in the morning. But you may not need to.


Marc Beaulieu is a writer, producer and host of the live Q&A show guyQ LIVE @AskMen

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