Irregular sleep habits linked to poor health

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(CLEVELAND CLINIC) – A healthy sleep schedule includes seven to nine hours of rest per night for the average adult.

But, a new study shows that it’s not just duration, but the consistency of our sleep habits that impact our overall health.

The study looked at 2,003 adults between the ages of 45-84.

The participants – who were monitored for an average of six years – wore wrist monitors that tracked their sleep regularity and kept a sleep diary.

Researchers discovered that fluctuating amounts of sleep and irregular bedtimes and wake-up times, put people at an increased risk for obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and other health problems.

And for each hour of sleep variability, these risks went up by as much as 27 percent.

“We always educate patients to get seven to nine hours of consistent quality sleep, but now, we have this study to back us up – that shows maintaining a good sleep hygiene could also help prevent metabolic disorders,” said Harnett Walia, M.D., of Cleveland Clinic, who did not take part in the study.

Dr. Walia said people are often aware of the quantity of sleep they need, but this study shows us the importance of consistent sleep patterns too.

She said getting a good night’s sleep starts with your sleep environment.

“Maintain a regular sleep-wake schedule; make sure that your sleeping environment is dark, cool, and comfortable,” said Dr. Walia. “We tell our patients to remove their electronic devices from the bedroom and stop using them for at least an hour or so before bedtime.”

In addition to keeping electronics out of the room at night, Dr. Walia said it’s best to avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evening hours and to avoid alcohol before bedtime, for a good night’s rest.

“Insufficient sleep is very common, and irregular sleep is very common as well,” she said. “The demands from everyday life and from work, may also have an effect on why we are not sleeping at regular times and getting less sleep. But, maintaining that regularity in sleep schedule, is of paramount importance.”

Complete results of the study can be found in Diabetes Care.

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