Study Looks at Irregular Sleep Habits and Health

Sunday November 4 marks the end of Daylight Saving Time. Some people look forward to ‘falling back’ one hour in the fall and getting an ‘extra’ hour of sleep. But others feel a change in sleep routine throws them for a loop – according to a new study, they may be right.

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CLEVELAND – Some people look forward to ‘falling back’ one hour in the fall and getting an ‘extra’ hour of sleep.

However, others feel a change in sleep routine throws them for a loop – and according to a new study, they may be right.

The study looked at data from 2,156 adults between the ages of 54-93.

Participants wore sleep-tracking devices that were capable of monitoring even the slightest variation of bedtime patterns.

Researchers found that overall, the people who had irregular sleep habits had higher levels of blood sugar, higher body mass index (BMI), higher blood pressure, higher hemoglobin A1c, and were more likely to experience a heart attack or stroke in the following decade.

“What they found was that there was an association between the regularity of our sleep – if there’s more irregularity of sleep, there was an increased risk of negative cardiovascular outcomes,” said Reena Mehra, M.D., Director of Sleep Disorders Research at Cleveland Clinic, who did not take part in the study.

Irregular sleep patterns were also linked to less physical activity and increased daytime sleepiness.

“These findings may actually be a reflection of our circadian biology, in that keeping those external cues in our environment as consistent as we can, really helps our biology and helps our health, and in this case, our cardiovascular health.”

Dr. Mehra said we tend to be better at keeping regular sleep-wake schedules during the week when work and school commitments require us to be on a set schedule.

For many of us, irregular sleep habits tend to creep up on the weekends, which can set us up for health risks down the road.

Dr. Mehra recommends keeping regular sleep wake times, regardless of the day of the week, or the time of the year.

“It’s important just to keep our routine as much as possible, in terms of that sleep-time and wake-time, and these study findings really suggest that irrespective of spring forward or falling back, as we are doing now, we should keep that consistent.”

Complete results of the study can be found in Scientific Reports.

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