Posted on Mar 14, 2019, 3 p.m.
Parents are always concerned that children go to bed on time, but this study suggests that adults should be just as vigilant about their own bedtime. Duke University researchers have found that a regular sleep schedule is just as beneficial to adults as it is to children, as published in the journal Scientific Reports.
Getting at least 7 hours of quality sleep is well documented as promoting positive health outcomes, and helping to prevent common diseases and conditions; but many of those studies focus on quality and length of sleep rather than the routine itself. This study investigates the effects of regular bedtime routines of going to sleep and waking up on the heart and metabolic health of adults.
1,978 adults between the ages of 54-93 were recruited who used devices to track sleep duration to the minute in order to record their sleep schedules; logging amount of sleep each subject got, as well as preferred time of sleep. Then several health indicators were measured to see the effects of a regular bedtime schedule verus a disrupted or fluctuating one. Findings showed those with irregular sleep patterns typically weighed more, had higher blood sugar, higher blood pressure, and higher risk of stroke or heart attack in the next 10 years compared to those with regular sleep schedules.
Keeping a regular sleep schedule was found to be most accurate when it came to predicting heart disease and metabolic disease risk compared to other factors. It was noted that this study presents an association not a cause and effect. Dr. Jessica Lunsford-Avery explains, “we can not conclude sleep irregularity results in health risks or whether health conditions affect sleep, all of these things may impact each other.”
Subjects who were irregular sleepers were most likely to be tired during the day, and less active than those who followed a regular sleep schedule. The researchers plan to conduct further investigations into how sleeping habits affect health status, lifestyle, and behavior to gain better understandings of what is happening biologically and write: “...Perhaps something about obesity disrupts sleep regularity, ...or perhaps poor sleep interferes with metabolism leading to weight gain, and it is a vicious cycle…”
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