Waking up early to go to work on regular days and sleeping in over the weekend may bring some serious health outcomes. A group of researchers found that these kind of abrupt changes in sleep schedules may up heart disease risk and make people more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes.
The recent study involved 447 participants within the 30 to 54 age range, who weren’t working from home for at least 25 hours every week. Each participant was asked to wear a digital wristband that monitored their movement and sleep 24/7. Volunteers were tracked for a week and they were also asked to answer questions on their diet and physical activity.
Scientists found that close to 85 percent of participants slept longer when they didn’t have to go to work. Other participants said that they woke earlier on their free days. Study revealed those who slept a lot longer over the weekend than they did on their workdays had higher cholesterol levels, greater resistance to insulin (which significantly increases risk of diabetes), a higher BMI, and were more prone to gain weight.
Study authors explained that social jet lag, or the changes in sleep schedule that most people are exposed to on their days off, remained tied to a high risk of metabolic disorders and heart disease even after adjustments were made.
Researchers found results remained statistically significant after they were adjusted for factors that may also promote disease such as unhealthy diet and lack of exercise.
The study was published Wednesday in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.
Social jet lag is caused by a mismatch between people’s inner rhythm of their bodies and sleep schedules forced upon them by their social duties, study authors explained. Past studies had also linked social jet lag with high risk of obesity, heart disease, and stroke.
Patricia Wong, lead author of the study and researcher at the University of Pittsburgh, explained that even in healthy people that do not experience very large differences between their weekend and workday sleeping schedules, social jet lag may up their risk of metabolic disease such as diabetes or high cholesterol.
These metabolic issues can later lead to obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and stroke, Wong said. Nevertheless, she admitted that her team did not found evidence that social jet lag may directly cause those disorders. The group found just an association.
Dr. Wong believes that if her team’s findings are confirmed by future studies, we should pay more attention to the implications of our social obligations on our sleep and health.
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