Poor sleep is doing more than making you tired at work – a new study has linked an irregular sleep schedule with a range of metabolic disorders including obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.
The study, which was conducted by scientists at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, suggests that even if we’re getting enough sleep, simple irregularity can disrupt metabolism.
The researchers say that sleeping at different times of the day and night, and getting varied amounts of sleep, seem to cause the natural body clock to become misaligned.
They found that for every hour of variability in time to bed and time asleep, a person may have up to a 27 percent greater risk of experiencing a metabolic abnormality.
What is a metabolic abnormality?
A metabolic abnormality is a condition that increases your risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. These conditions include increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels.
Study author Tianyi Huang said the close link between sleep and metabolic health was becoming increasingly clear.
“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 involved tracking approximately 2,000 men and women ages 45 to 84 for a median of six years. Participants wore an actigraph watch to track sleep schedules, kept a sleep diary, and completed additional questionnaires about sleep habits and lifestyle.
Recently, an Australian government report called for a national approach to working hours and rest breaks for shift workers as one of 11 critical recommendations for improving sleep health (see related article).
In 2016-17, inadequate sleep was estimated to contribute to 3017 deaths in Australia. The direct financial cost of poor sleep health is currently estimated to be $26.2 billion annually.