Dec 13, 2011

The pervasive belief that computers and mobile phones are eating into our sleep has been challenged by researchers.

Nicholas Glozier, associate professor of psychological medicine, University of Sydney, and co-authors applied scientific rigour to the perception that people were sleeping an hour less than they did a decade ago.

Using Bureau of Statistics data from 1992, 1997 and 2006, they found the average adult slept eight hours and 20 minutes in 1992, eight hours and 33 minutes in 1997 and eight hours and 30 minutes in 2006, the Medical Journal of Australia reports.

After adjusting the figures to take into account weekends and different seasons, the authors found there was no significant change in average sleep duration between 1992 and 2006, said a University of Sydney statement.

The exceptions were people aged 65 and over, who on average slept 12 minutes less than they did in 1992. People with no income slept 17 minutes less and male carergivers slept 31 minutes less than they did in 1992 - though all still averaged more than eight hours.

The authors also found that shorter sleep duration was linked with higher education, higher income, longer work hours and having two or more children in the household.

Adults average 40 minutes more sleep per night on weekends; adults sleep 12 minutes longer per night in winter than they do in summer.

The overall findings were positive, given that sleep deprivation is associated with a number of health problems, including premature death, heart health, obesity, accident and injury, and mental health problems.

'Public health concerns over declining sleep duration do not appear to be warranted,' the authors wrote.
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