Changes in your sleep cycle could harm you more than you think according to a recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. Researchers conducting the study have found that disrupting one’s routine sleeping patterns can lead to increased health risks for heart disease as well as diabetes.
The study focused on 477 cases of both men and women that were working more than 25 hours every week outside of their home, between the ages of 35 and 54. The participants were given wristbands to monitor their sleep patterns as well as their movement 24 hours a day for a period of seven days. Researches also went through questionnaires with the participants in order to record and assess additional factors like their eating habits and exercise routines.
After monitoring these routines researchers found that 85 percent of the participants chose to sleep in on their days off, which meant that they slept longer during those days than during working days. The remaining 15 percent woke up earlier during their days off than they did during working days.
Participants with large differences between the sleep habits they had during work days and the ones they showed on their days off were found to also have worse cholesterol and insulin levels as well as greater resistance to insulin, larger waist sizes and higher body mass indexes (BMI).
The process was dubbed “social jetlag” by researchers, who explained that the increased risk factors continued to exist even after participants made adjustments to some of their lifestyle or sleep behaviors, such as adding an exercise routine and monitoring their calorie intakes.
Patricia Wong, the author of the study, explained that social jetlag refers to significant differences between a person’s biological circadian rhythm, also known as their body clock, and the sleep schedules that are socially imposed on them.
And although previous research has shown a connection between social jetlag and obesity or cardiovascular problems, this more recent study is the first to show that less extreme mismatches in the sleep schedules of healthy individuals can also be harmful to young, working adults. This is, as Wong went on to explain, due to the metabolic changes that occur and that can influence the development of health problems such as obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
And although her study has not proven a direct cause-and-effect relationship between social jetlag and these diseases, Wong explained that by focusing on circadian disturbances during clinical consults and organizing workplace education could help patients to better organize their sleep schedules and reduce the health risks they have.
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