A James Cook University researcher based in Mount Isa has come up with an alarming finding, and alarms may be to blame.
JCU researcher Dr Yaqoot Fatima has worked alongside hundreds of other researchers in one of the longest studies in Australian history into sleep patterns of young people and found they are not getting enough of it.
"We are a chronically sleep deprived generation," Dr Fatima said.
"There is consistent anecdotal and scientific evidence that hours of sleep in young adults have considerably declined over the past few decades with a concurrent increase in reports of fatigue and excessive daytime sleepiness."
The findings come from a longitudinal 38-year study based at the University of Queensland which recruited 8000 pregnant women, then studying their children and their offspring once again across three generations.
The study began in 1981 analysing generational sleep up until 2019 to find out if there was changes in sleep over time, what factors were at play and what was a healthy amount of sleep.
"Research findings indicate a complex interaction between genes and the environment leading to inadequate sleep," Dr Fatima said.
"Evidence from twin studies in adults suggests low-to-moderate heritability of sleep duration. However, significant lifestyle changes, social attitudes, and increased use of electronic communication devices are seen to be significantly affecting sleep duration in the current generation."
Dr Fatima said sleep deprivation also had a role in some adverse short-term and long-term health outcomes, including depression, hypertension, dyslipidemia, cardiovascular diseases, and metabolic syndrome.
"Although the evidence for negative outcome of longer sleep duration is not as extensive as for short duration, more evidence is emerging that there are links between spending an excessive amount of time in bed and physical and mental well-being and all-cause mortality," she said.
"Therefore, the focus of sleep intervention should not be just 'short sleep duration' but rather a 'healthy sleep duration' of seven to nine hours."
Dr Fatima said their results indicated that there was indeed a generational change in sleep duration.
"As opposed to previous belief that there is only increase in the prevalence of short sleep, we found increase in the prevalence of long sleep as well," she said.
"Therefore, the intervention to support healthy sleep shouldn't excessively focus on short sleep, rather it should promote achieving adequate sleep duration recommended for the age.
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