It’s not only kids who benefit from a set bedtime, going to bed at the same time every night has major benefits for adults too…

Getting a good night’s sleep, which is essential for a healthy body and a sharp mind, is not just an issue of logging seven to eight hours of shut-eye.

A new study on sleep patterns suggests that people who have set bedtimes are slimmer, less prone to heart disease, diabetes and heart attacks than people who have irregular bedtimes.

Almost 2 000 people studied

Duke University Medical Centre researchers found people with irregular sleep patterns weighed more, had higher blood sugar, higher blood pressure, and a higher projected risk of having a heart attack or stroke within 10 years than those who slept and woke up at the same times every day.

This was according to a study of 1 978 older adults.

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Irregular bedtimes linked to depression and obesity

Irregular sleepers were also more likely to report depression and stress than regular sleepers, both of which are tied to heart health.

“From our study, we can’t conclude that sleep irregularity results in health risks, or whether health conditions affect sleep,” said Jessica Lunsford-Avery, Ph.D., an assistant professor in psychiatry and behavioural sciences and the study’s lead author. “Perhaps all these things are impacting on one another.”

Still, the data suggest tracking sleep regularity could help identify people at risk of disease, and where health disparities may impact on specific groups, such as African Americans.

Losing sleep and gaining weight – the link explained

Obese people stay up later

The study participants used devices that tracked sleep schedules down to the minute so researchers could learn whether even subtle changes – going to bed at 10:10 p.m. instead of the usual 10 p.m. – were linked to the health of participants.

The study also tracked the duration of participants’ sleep and preferred timing – whether someone turned in early or was a night owl. According to these measures, people with hypertension tended to sleep more hours, and people with obesity tended to stay up later.

Of all three measures, however, regularity was the best at predicting someone’s heart and metabolic disease risk, the researchers found.

The vicious circle of irregular sleep times and obesity

As one might expect, irregular sleepers experienced more sleepiness during the day and were less active – perhaps because they were tired.

“Perhaps there’s something about obesity that disrupts sleep regularity,” Lunsford-Avery said. “Or, as some research suggests, perhaps poor sleep interferes with the body’s metabolism which can lead to weight gain, and it’s a vicious circle. With more research, we hope to understand what’s going on biologically, and perhaps then we could say what’s coming first or which is the chicken and which is the egg.”

Source: Duke University Medical Centre via www.sciencedaily.com

While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.