Are you a short sleeper?

In New Zealand, 29 per cent of Māori and 22 per cent of non-Māori aren’t getting enough sleep.

Lead researcher Associate Professor Leigh Signal.

Nearly a quarter of New Zealanders report, on average, sleeping less than seven hours a night, on days when they work or study.

Around one third of these “short sleepers” also significantly alter the timing and length of their sleep on weekends, causing what is known as “social jetlag”.

Now a group of researchers from Massey’s Sleep/Wake Research Centre is hoping to uncover the factors that drive people to behave this way, with the hope of contributing to wider health issues related to lack of sleep.

Lead researcher Associate Professor Leigh Signal says there is strong evidence that sleeping less than seven hours a night on an on-going basis, and/or regularly shifting the timing of sleep, puts people at increased risk of metabolic disorders and obesity.

“In New Zealand, 29 per cent of Māori and 22 per cent of non-Māori aren’t getting enough sleep. This can increase the risk of impaired glucose tolerance, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, poor general health and premature death.

“Given most attempts to combat the rising rates of obesity and metabolic disorders have not been particularly successful, sleep interventions targeting short sleepers may have great potential as an alternative and complementary solution to existing efforts.”

Most previous research treats short sleepers as one population, but Dr Signal believes they can be split into different groups. These might include people who biologically do not need more than seven hours sleep, and people who cut their sleep short because of other commitments.

Dr Signal says those who are not biological short sleepers are probably most at risk of experiencing the adverse health consequences of short sleep and social jetlag.

The study has been developed in collaboration with researchers from Harvard Medical School’s Division of Sleep Medicine. Data collection will be completed in parallel in the United States, in order to compare the two populations.

The project, Who are the short sleepers? will use an online questionnaire to look at the sleeping patterns of 1000 New Zealanders over the age of 18 who regularly sleep less than seven hours.

Dr Signal wants to hear from people who regularly sleep seven hours or less. You must live in New Zealand and be over 18 to participate. To participate in the survey click here.

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