Study suggests importance of regular sleep schedule

The preliminary results of a new US study suggest that waking up later on weekends than during the week is contributing to a variety of health problems, as well as making us feel even more tired, reports AFP. Known as “social jet lag,” the sleep pattern appears to be an important circadian marker for future health according to the study from the Sleep and Health Research Program at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

Led by senior author Michael A Grandner, the team used data from the community-based Sleep and Healthy Activity, Diet, Environment, and Socialization (SHADES) study to look at survey responses from 984 adults between 22 and 60. Participants were asked about their weekday and weekend sleep schedules, as well as sleep duration, insomnia, cardiovascular disease, fatigue, and sleepiness.

The results of the study, published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, showed that social jetlag is associated with poorer health, worse mood, and increased sleepiness and fatigue, and that each hour of social jet lag is also associated with an 11-percent increase in the likelihood of heart disease.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that adults should sleep for seven or more hours each night on a regular basis to help achieve optimal health, however the new study also highlights the importance of a regular sleep schedule, with lead author Sierra B Forbush commenting that, “These results indicate that sleep regularity, beyond sleep duration alone, plays a significant role in our health.”

“This suggests that a regular sleep schedule may be an effective, relatively simple, and inexpensive preventative treatment for heart disease as well as many other health problems.”

Preliminary results from another study from American Academy of Sleep Medicine along with the Sleep Research Society has also found that a regular sleep pattern can help boost health and improve the happiness and well-being of college students.

Presented Monday June 5 at SLEEP 2017, the 31st Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies LLC (APSS) in Boston and with an abstract published in an online supplement of SLEEP, the study was carried out by the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and MIT Media Lab Affective Computing Group.

The team looked at 204 college students between the ages of 18 and 25, monitoring their sleep timing and duration and asking participants for self-reports on their well-being, including happiness, healthiness, and calmness. The results showed that a higher level of sleep regularity was significantly related to a higher level of happiness in the morning and evening, and higher levels of healthiness and calmness throughout the week. Those who moved from an irregular weekly sleep pattern to a regular one also benefited from improved well-being, both during the week of regular sleep and on the day after a night of regular sleep.