Staying Up Late on Weekends Might Affect Women's Long-
If you’re waking early during the week and sleeping late on the weekends, this sleep pattern may be harming your health long-term.
Years of studies have found a slightly increased risk of heart disease, breast cancer, diabetes and other health and metabolic conditions in people who work night shifts. Scientists don’t fully understand the reasons, but variable sleep patterns and a disrupted circadian rhythm—the body’s internal clock—appear to play a major role.
It turns out that speeding up or slowing down your body clock affects your metabolism and your overall health
In one recent study, researchers followed 338 women aged 48 to 58 for just over five years. None of these women were taking insulin medications. The women kept sleep diaries so the researchers could measure their average bedtime, how much it varied over time and how much earlier or later they went to bed when it varied.
Then the scientists measured the women’s insulin resistance and body mass index (BMI) twice during the study. Insulin resistance is an indicator of a person’s risk for diabetes and BMI is a ratio of height to weight that helps classify how healthy a person’s weight is.
The researchers found that women who had more erratic bedtimes or frequently went to bed later than their usual bedtime had more insulin resistance the second time it was checked. Those who frequently went to bed earlier than their usual bedtime were more likely to gain weight over time. The kicker—it was shifted sleep-time on the weekends that partly explained these findings.
This study was the first time researchers had looked at the metabolic health of women who did not do shift work but had inconsistent sleep times. But the findings of another study showed similar effects when the researchers conducted an experiment with 26 adults to see if it’s getting too little sleep or actually shifting sleep and wake times that affects health. Half of the adults got five hours of sleep on a consistent bedtime for three days, and the other half got five hours but with shifted bedtimes.
“In our well-controlled laboratory study, we demonstrated that, in healthy young adults, circadian misalignment—a result of irregular sleep schedules—increased diabetes risk to a greater extent than sleep-loss alone,” said the study’s lead author, Rachel Leproult, a researcher at the University of Chicago. “We also measured an inflammatory marker linked to cardiovascular disease and observed that its levels were more elevated with sleep loss and even more so when circadian misalignment occurred.”
These studies suggest that regular daily sleep routines matter to your health.
So what’s the solution? Leproult offered several tips for better sleep hygiene:
- Set a bedtime that is early enough for you to get at least seven hours of sleep.
- Don’t go to bed unless you are sleepy.
- If you don’t fall asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed.
- Establish relaxing bedtime rituals.
- Use your bed only for sleep and sex (no television, no computer, no work).
- Make your bedroom quiet and relaxing. Keep the room at a comfortable, cool temperature.
- Limit exposure to light in the evenings.
- Don’t eat a large meal before bedtime. If you are hungry at night, eat a light, healthy snack.
- Exercise regularly, but not too close to bedtime.
- Avoid caffeine in the afternoon.
- Avoid alcohol before bedtime.
- Reduce your fluid intake before bedtime.
Perhaps the best solution is finding a bedtime schedule you can stick with consistently seven days a week. It could mean better long-term metabolic and heart health—and you’ll feel more energetic in the short term, too.
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