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Who’s not sleeping in Cyprus?

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Who sleeps better in Cyprus: men or women, couples or singles, young or old? What professions lend themselves to insomnia? And why is one town sleeping much less than the others, asks ALIX NORMAN

 

Spring forward, fall back – that’s how daylight-saving time works, isn’t it? And over the weekend, we suddenly jumped from 1:59am to 3am as the clocks advanced a full 60 minutes.

For most of us, this is a horrible happening; anyone who thinks we’ll catch up with ourselves by Monday is truly deluded! Especially given that we’re sleeping far less and working much longer hours than at any other time in the past….

Granted, we’re not out tilling the fields all day. The majority of us spend our days in front of a computer screen, ensconced in climate-controlled offices.

Yet we’re trying to do something our ancestors never did: juggling job, rent and family and while we burn the candle at both ends. And that means that we’re – mostly – getting far less sleep than we actually need.

Centuries ago, we slept and woke with the sun, routinely enjoying eight to nine hours of sleep per night. Biphasic sleep was the norm: a four-hour snooze at 8pm; an hour of wakefulness (usually spent reading or praying); and finally a good long ‘second sleep’ before dawn!

By 2014, most of us were sleeping through the night, getting roughly seven-and-a-half hours – 30 minutes more than the minimum recommended for adults. But within the last decade, that’s begun to change…

In Europe, the Finns are the best-rested nation, with almost 84 per cent getting more than seven hours per night. Other northern European countries are similar: 82 per cent of the Netherlands, 81 per cent of Sweden, and 80 per cent of the UK also clock at least seven.

You might think this is weather-related – perhaps people sleep longer when it’s cold and dark? But no. Down the other end of the scale we get everything from the Bulgarians (74 per cent), to the Greeks (73 per cent), and the Irish (of whom just 66 per cent manage more than seven hours per night!)

On this island, the research suggests we’re still sleeping fairly well – and for an average of 7.1 hours per night. But Cyprus poses a couple of wildly interesting anomalies…

feature3According to a 2022 study on Cyprus’ sleep quality, men sleep better and longer than women; singles sleep better and longer than couples; and as we age, our sleep lessens and fragments.

So far, so normal – these conclusions are globally consistent. But the local study noted two ‘unexpected’ results.

One, that those with a high annual income had a shorter sleep duration compared to those who had a low or a middle annual income. And two, that residents of Paphos, regardless of age, were experiencing a far worse quality of sleep than anywhere else on the island!

The former might be due to increased job responsibilities and stress, late-night work across time zones, and elevated use of technology.

But the latter is anyone’s guess! Perhaps it’s something to do with tourism? The majority of Cyprus’ foreign visitors plump for Paphos, so maybe hospitality shift work plays a part in the region’s sleeplessness? Or maybe it’s the town’s slightly older population?

Either way, if you’re a married, middle-aged female of means from Paphos, insomnia (probably) rules okay!

“I’m lucky to get five hours a night,” exclaims 55-year-old Peyia nurse Elaine Potter. “So losing that extra hour to daylight saving is never fun!”

Elaine admits she’s never slept well, though her quality and quantity of sleep has definitely worsened over the years – something she attributed to stress and the increased mental load on women.

“I’ll stay up till midnight trying to tire myself out, but wake in the night at least once for an hour or so. Then, at 6am sharp, my brain shoots me out of bed with a list of all the things that need to be done that day!”

Other than location, job also has a significant impact on how much we sleep. If you’re in a stable job with regular hours, you’re apparently better off: those who get more than their fair share of sleep are pilots, flight attendants and post-secondary teachers.

The most sleep-deprived professions appear to be anyone working in health care, emergency services, and (right at the top, with over 50 per cent averaging far less than seven hours per night) journalists! Especially, according to the study, writers who work in print news where – and you can trust me implicitly on this! – erratic shifts, breaking news, and pressing deadlines all disrupt sleep patterns.

However, it’s not all bad…

We all know babies sleep longer, older people sleep less. And there have always been the odd few who claim they hardly need to sleep at all – Margaret Thatcher once famously claimed she could get by on four hours of shut-eye a day!

But of late, an interesting generational shift has occurred.

Generation X (who were raised by the Boomers to believe sleep equals laziness), sleep the least, slaves to their mortgages, jobs and families. Their younger counterparts, Millennials, sleep at least 22 minutes more – though still less than eight hours.

But then we get Generation Z, born between 1997 and 2012. And here, we see a wild swing in both quantity and quality of sleep. Not only is the average 20-something bedding down earlier than any previous generation, they’re also sleeping far longer – a staggering 9.5 hours per hours per night, according to a study released last month.

This isn’t simply an age thing. Data proves that, 15 years ago, 20-somethings were clocking eight per cent less sleep than the current generation. There’s something else at play here, and 25-year-old animator Alexis Kyprianou suggests he knows what this is…

“I think we’re the first generation that prioritises mental health. Better sleep means better mental health.”

The Limassol resident admits that, like many of his peers, he has a sleep hygiene routine that includes avoiding caffeine, using CBD oil, and drinking mountain tea before bed.

“I make sure I’m in bed by 10pm latest,” he adds. “I never go out on weeknights, and always try to get a full eight to nine hours.

“Given the way the world is going, I think my generation has been forced to work out that sleep might just be the easiest and cheapest way to stay sane!”

 

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