Could sleeping in on the weekends be bad for you?

sleepEven just one hour of ‘social jetlag’ a week is associated with poorer health.

Late nights on the weekends followed by a return to an early start come Monday morning could be wreaking havoc with our health, finds new research.

The research, presented at SLEEP, the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, focused on something called “social jet lag.” That’s the pattern of waking early for work on weekdays, but staying up late to socialize and sleep in on the weekends.

The researchers found that social jet lag was associated with poorer health, worse mood and — perhaps not surprisingly — increased sleepiness and fatigue.

The researchers, from the Sleep and Health Research Program at the University of Arizona, found that each hour of social jet lag is associated with an 11 per cent increase in the likelihood of heart disease.

Even just one hour of “social jetlag” a week was associated with poorer health. So those who normally go to bed at 10 p.m. but then don’t go to bed until 11 p.m. on weekends had poorer health than those who kept a more regular schedule.

“These results indicate that sleep regularity, beyond sleep duration alone, plays a significant role in our health,” said lead author Sierra B. Forbush, an undergraduate research assistant in the Sleep and Health Research Program.

The study was conducted by analyzing survey responses from 984 adults who were between the ages of 22 and 60 years.

The researchers looked for social jet lag by using the Sleep Timing Questionnaire and subtracting weekday from weekend sleep midpoint. The participants’ overall health was then self-reported using questionnaires on heart health, depression and fatigue.

The study wasn’t able to show whether disrupted sleep schedules caused poorer health, only that there was a link.

But previous research has shown that sleep deprivation tends to make people eat more and choose foods that are higher in fat and sugar, as well as exercise less.

Forbush says the findings reinforce the advice that maintaining a regular sleep schedule is best for 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.”

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends adults sleep seven or more hours per night on a regular basis to promote optimal health.


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