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We’ve all heard that it’s important to get enough sleep, in order to stay healthy.
After all, people who regularly get less than seven to eight hours of shut-eye each night are at higher risk of heart disease, heart failure, diabetes, stroke and even dementia.
But did you know that there’s one more sleep factor — besides just getting enough — that plays a role in your risk of chronic disease?
Yup, the results of a new study is giving us deeper insight into the vital role sleep plays in keeping us healthy and the extreme risks we could be facing if the time we spend between the sheets isn’t optimal.
Irregular or variable sleep
Since scientists were already aware of the link between insufficient sleep and a higher risk of obesity, diabetes and other metabolic disorders, a research team funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute decided to go deeper.
They dug into the impact of irregular sleep (going to bed and waking up at different times) and variable sleep (getting different amounts of sleep day-to-day) to measure its effects on your health.
The researchers followed over 2,000 participants for an average of six years monitoring their sleep regularity in comparison to their metabolic abnormalities. Their sleep regularity was measured in two ways:
- Participants wore an actigraph (a wristwatch that closely tracked sleep schedules for seven consecutive days).
- They also kept a sleep diary and responded to standard questionnaires about sleep habits.
And, the results were frightening for anyone who doesn’t keep an extremely regular sleep schedule…
The researchers found that people who had greater variations in their bedtimes and in the hours they slept had a much higher risk of metabolic problems, and these associations persisted after adjusting for average sleep duration.
In fact, the results showed that for every hour of variability in time to bed and time asleep, you can have up to a 27 percent greater chance of experiencing a metabolic abnormality or even multiple metabolic problems at once, including:
- Lower HDL (good) cholesterol — an indication of metabolic syndrome that raises your risk of heart disease
- Higher waist circumference — increases your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes
- High blood pressure — increases your risk of heart attack, heart failure, and sudden cardiac death
- High total triglycerides — part of a cluster of conditions that increase your risk of heart attack and stroke
- High fasting glucose — points to insulin resistance and a high risk of diabetes
The study’s author, Tianyi Huang, Sc.D., epidemiologist of the Channing Division of Network Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston had this to say, “Our research shows that, even after considering the amount of sleep a person gets and other lifestyle factors, every one-hour night-to-night difference in the time to bed or the duration of a night’s sleep multiplies the adverse metabolic effect.”
This means that if you have consistently variable or irregular sleep, you compound the damage night after night.
And, if that weren’t enough, the researchers also found that people with the most irregular sleep were also more likely to experience depression and sleep apnea, and consume more calories daily.
The sleep solution
These results mean that if you want to save yourself from the dangers of metabolic syndrome that can leave you overweight and at high risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, it’s important to not only get enough sleep each night but to get the same amount of sleep each night and go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day.
If you’re struggling with your sleep schedule, be sure to check out these five easy ways to get the best sleep ever from Dr. Mark Wiley, an internationally renowned mind-body health practitioner, with doctorates in both Oriental and alternative medicine.
And, don’t miss tips from A to Zzzz for getting better sleep from Dr. Isaac Eliaz, a renowned integrative medical doctor and licensed acupuncturist.
Melatonin is my favorite way to improve my sleep, but a soothing caffeine-free herbal tea runs a close second.
Editor’s note: Are you feeling unusually tired? You may think this is normal aging, but the problem could be your master hormone. When it’s not working, your risk of age-related diseases skyrockets. To reset what many call “the trigger for all disease” and live better, longer, click here to discover The Insulin Factor: How to Repair Your Body’s Master Controller and Conquer Chronic Disease!
- Can poor sleep lead to Alzheimer’s or dementia? — CNN
- 10 Things to Hate About Sleep Loss — WebMD
- Irregular sleep patterns linked to metabolic disorders — NIH/National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute
- HDL cholesterol: How to boost your ‘good’ cholesterol — Mayo Clinic
- Assessing Your Weight and Health Risk — National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
- High blood pressure dangers: Hypertension’s effects on your body — Mayo Clinic
- Triglycerides: Why do they matter? — Mayo Clinic
- What to know about fasting blood sugar? — Medical News Today