“If I am to give one advice, it is...” Bedtime talk with sleep expert Benedict


What can I do to sleep better? And surely I can catch up on sleep during the weekend! As the poster man of Swedish sleep research, Christian Benedict faces both distress and the search for simple solutions. This year he sets sail for television and bookstores to guide us to a good night.

Christian Benedict, sleep researcher, the Faculty of Pharmacy
Christian Benedict, sleep researcher, the Faculty of Pharmacy

Our quest for rest occupies an increasingly prominent position in talks about the factors that form a healthy lifestyle. Still, sleep depravation is spreading epidemic style across the world. In a survey among teens in Uppsala County, every third respondent stated that they suffer from impaired sleep and that this has a negative effect on their school performances. Of course, the risks of irregular sleep routines reach far beyond the classroom. Yet, communicating these from a scientific point of view is not entirely without friction.

“As our knowledge about sleep increases, it is becoming less taboo to speak openly about one’s possible sleep problems. On the other hand, all this new science might cause unnecessary stress. I mean, it is obviously alarming that every second adult does not feel recovered when waking up on weekdays, but worrying about how it might affect our health is not going to make us sleep any better. Thus, we have to focus our messages on the positive aspects of sleep, not the other way around,” states sleep researcher Christian Benedict.

"We have to focus on the positive aspects of sleep"
"We must focus on the positive aspects of sleep"

Just over a decade has passed since Christian left Germany for Uppsala. From the laboratory in the Biomedical Center, he has, via a series of high-profile studies, been central in upgrading sleep research from side science to interdisciplinary relevant for a wide range of medical areas. Among the discoveries that have caught global attention is that one sleepless night can negatively affect the brain and increase our energy intake. Works that have contributed to establishing the team at the absolute front of their game.

“I remember how I, being a football-playing PhD student in Lübeck, read articles by researchers such as Karine Spiegel and Eve Van Cauter and was occasionally struck by the insight that they were at a level as unreachable as the Champions League. Recently, I published my latest article in collaboration with these two portal figures, and seeing my name next to theirs was undeniably a special feeling,” notes Christian.

The study in question shows how lack of sleep close to vaccination can inhibit antibody production. A highly relevant observation in the wake of the pandemic, and in a separate study, Pei Xue, postdoc in Lab Benedict, has found that people who sleep less than six hours per night run an increased risk to develop post-covid despite two vaccine doses. Results that are currently sharing space in international media with the team’s highly publicized article in Nature Communications, where they show, in collaboration with Chinese researchers, that physical exercise has most impact in the afternoon.

 “Over time, journalists have discovered our lab and we often receive requests for interviews and comments. At the same time, the spotlight has taught me to express myself carefully. Statistics can, at least when it comes to sleep, easily be turned into something different than it actually reflects. Having said that, I am happy about the platforms we are granted, and this year I will participate in a television series about sleep, and in September my second popular science book will be published.”

In the sequel to his 2018 bestseller Sleep, sleep, sleep, Christian focuses on how we can use new knowledge and technology to sleep our way to a better life. Based on his studies on, among other things, weighted blankets and activity watches, Christian aims to answer some of the questions he encounters during his lecture tours. Far too often he senses ill-concealed traces of anxiety among the audience, and a book provides a format to defuse stress that no Q&A session can offer. But with an expert in the room, we still can’t help but…

“My answer will always be the same: There are no quick fixes. Of course, you can estimate your need for sleep by calculating the average of the number of hours you sleep over three holiday nights. And yes, you can to some extent catch up on sleep at weekends, but it is not to be recommended in the long term. If I am to give one advice, it will be fixed routines. And for those of you who still worry: remember that a little sleep is always better than none at all.”




Christian BenedictChristian Benedict, Senior Lecturer
Department of Pharmaceutical Biosciences

Text: Magnus Alsne, photo: Stefan Tell

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Last modified: 2022-11-08