Irish people sleep more during the week than anyone else, study finds

Participants in research used sleep monitoring devices and involved more than 50 million nights

People in Ireland were found to sleep more during the week than any other country examined in a big study involving approximately 220,000 people in 35 countries.

The study, which concentrated on working age participants and was conducted during 2021 (ie during the pandemic), found that people in Ireland, on average, during the week, went to sleep at 23.39 and woke up at 7.27am, an average total of 7.48 hours.

At the weekend the study found that people in Ireland, on average, went to sleep just after midnight and woke up at 8.16am.

The study, called Country differences in nocturnal sleep variability: Observations from a large-scale, long-term sleep wearable study, and published by Science Direct, involved more than 500 Irish participants of whom 70 per cent were male. The global study had a mean age of 44.4 years and slightly less than 60 per cent were male.

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The participants in the study used sleep monitoring devices and the study involved more than 50 million sleep nights. Overall it found that people in Asia slept less, by about 45 minutes, than people elsewhere. The study focused on Europe, Asia, Oceania and North America, but also included participants from South Africa and the Gulf.

People in Asia tended to fall asleep later than those in Europe, who in turn fell asleep later than those in North America and Oceania. A similar pattern is also seen for waking up, with people in Asia and Europe waking up later than those in North America and Oceania.

New Zealand, Slovakia, the Netherlands and Finland came after Ireland, in that order, for total sleep time during the week, with people in India, Singapore, South Korea and Japan sleeping the least, Japan being the country where people slept the least.

Finland, Switzerland and Norway came top of the table for countries where people extended the amount of time during which they were asleep at the weekends relative to during the week, with Ireland coming eleventh from the bottom in that regard.

In general, people in western Europe, who tended to sleep more than people elsewhere during the week, were also found to have a great extended sleep at the weekends.

“There is currently no evidence to indicate that, at the population level, the need for sleep differs across ethnicity or countries,” according to the authors, who said the differences recorded in sleep patterns were most likely due to culture.

“A recent large-scale analysis of mortality in Japan, China, Singapore and Korea has shown that a sleep duration of 7 hours is associated with the lowest mortality risk, with both shorter and longer sleep associated with elevated risk,” the authors said.

“Furthermore, a study investigating the relationship between sleep duration and cognitive decline in large samples from the UK and China found that cognitive performance was best with 7 hours sleep in both cohorts.”

Understanding the influence of culture on sleep is at least as important as studying how it is influenced by age, sex and circadian rhythms, the authors said.

Colm Keena

Colm Keena

Colm Keena is an Irish Times journalist. He was previously legal-affairs correspondent and public-affairs correspondent