Getting enough sleep has been proven to keep your physical and mental health sharp, and while the amount of sleep you need changes over the course of your life, new research suggests having a regular bedtime and wake time may improve your overall health.
The Duke Health and Duke Clinical Research Institute study on sleep patterns, recently published in the journal Scientific Reports, involved 1,978 older adults ages 54-93, none of whom had diagnosed sleep disorders.
Researchers tracked sleep schedules using tracking devices and collected health data on the participants. They found that people with hypertension slept longer hours and those with obesity were more likely to stay up late.
Sleep irregularity was also associated with increased perceived stress, depression and other psychiatric factors tied to cardio-metabolic disease.
Study findings revealed significant racial differences in regularity as well. White Americans displayed the highest sleep regularity, whereas African-Americans had the greatest sleep irregularity patterns.
“From our study, we can't conclude that sleep irregularity results in health risks, or whether health conditions affect sleep,” lead author Jessica Lunsford-Avery, said in a statement. “Perhaps all of these things are impacting each other.”
But previous research from animal and human studies has suggested that sleep/wake disturbances may involve “interference with energy metabolism, glucose metabolism, and timing of food intake and their resulting impact on body composition,” all of which directly increases risk for cardio metabolic illness.
And the new data shows that tracking regularity may help predict risk of disease, especially heart disease and diabetes, two of the most common and fatal illnesses in the United States.
“To the extent we can predict individuals at risk for these diseases, we may be able to prevent or delay their onset,” Lunsford-Avery said. “Perhaps there's something about obesity that disrupts sleep regularity. Or, as some research suggests, perhaps poor sleep interferes with the body's metabolism which can lead to weight gain, and it's a vicious cycle.”
She and her colleagues believe that additional research may help understand “what’s coming first or which is the chicken and which is the egg.”
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