New data from the Journal Diabetes, establishes a strong link between irregular sleep and increased risk for metabolic disorders like hypertension, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Tracking more than 2,000 participants, (men and women between the ages of 45 and 84), for roughly six years, revealed that the individuals with the most eclectic bedtimes, and greatest instances of intermittent sleep, showcased the highest prevalence of metabolic disorders.
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“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,” The study’s author Tianyi Huang told New Atlas.
It’s not yet clear if this means keeping irregular bedtimes is any worse, or as bad even, as simply habitually getting less than the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep per night, though the authors of the study made a point to stress the importance of “consistency” in the report itself, and again in several press statements.
It should be noted that the study was beset by several limitations that would make it difficult to determine anything categorically. For starters, the results were animated by self-reporting. The participants kept food journals and were surveyed about their food intake. The study group was only monitored using the objective actigraph wrist watches for one week.
At the end of the day, it’s too early to determine the gravity of these findings, but the study group and period were large and long enough to warrant some worthwhile precautions. In response to the journal Diabetes report, medical correspondent, Dr. John Torrez sat down with Today to unpack the implications. Torrez was in direct correspondence with the authors of the new study earlier in the week and was thus able to impart some helpful tips for those that have trouble keeping their circadian clock in order.
Make sure you adopt a relaxing bedtime routine. Sticking to a pre-sleep ritual of some kind will help promote consistency. Consider a hot shower, preparing tea, or an evening walk perhaps.
Use white noise. White noise machines have been studied to be effective tools against insomnia. The devices are pretty common and affordable.
Cooldown room. Our body temperatures drop with nightfall, a signal to our system that it’s time to wind down. Mimicking this natural reaction has been proven to help individuals fall asleep quicker.
Limit daytime naps. Again, if you’re trying to route social jetlag, or merely play catch up, you have to remember, as far as this study is concerned, it is not a number’s game, it’s all about uniformity. Daytime naps will ensure your sleep is beholden to variability.
Improve your sleep surroundings. As Torrez put it, your bedroom should be for “sleep and intimacy. That’s it. Get rid of the tv, get rid of the cell phones.”
No coffee, no alcohol before bed. The first half of this advice is pretty self-explanatory, but if you’re like me you probably thought alcohol, even if super unhealthy, helped promote sleep to some degree. As it turns out booze exacerbates sleep apnea, soring and night sweats.
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