You must have heard time and time again about the health risks associated with not getting good quality and quantity of sleep, but did you know that having an irregular sleep schedule is just as bad? In fact, a study conducted on university students in Taiwan suggests that an irregular bedtime schedule and poor sleep quality actually have a correlation.
Let’s delve deeper into what sleep experts are saying about the adverse effects of having an irregular sleep-wake cycle.
Effects of Irregular Sleep Schedule on Both the Brain and the Body
A study presented at Neuroscience 2009, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, indicates that chronic disruption of the circadian rhythm (your body’s internal clock) led to certain physiological and behavioral changes in the mice subjects.
The following changes, which were observed in the mice subjects, are remarkably similar to those observed in shift workers and people experiencing jet lags.
o Low energy levels
o Slow response time (reflexes)
o Weight gain
Irregular Sleep Schedule: A Risk Factor for Chronic Health Conditions
A recent study, whose findings were published in the journal Diabetes Care, suggests that irregular sleep patterns are linked to a higher risk of diabetes, obesity, and other metabolic disorders. Fluctuating sleep patterns and getting varying amounts of sleep to disrupt the natural body clock: for every hour of variability in a person’s bedtime schedule, they have a 27 percent higher risk of developing a metabolic disorder.
Additionally, a five-year study funded in part by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health indicates that an irregular bedtime schedule is a novel risk factor for heart disease. The study further suggests that observing a consistent sleep schedule does help reduce the risk of heart disease, as do exercise, a balanced diet, and other healthy habits.
Experts ascribe the increased risk for cardiovascular events in people with irregular sleep cycles to the decrease in leptin levels (the hormone that helps regulate body weight): when a person’s leptin levels are low, they tend to eat more. When this happens regularly, it leads to weight gain, obesity, and ultimately, insulin resistance, all of which signify inflammation. Sustained low levels of inflammation irritate the blood vessels and are involved in all stages of plaque development in the arteries. Plaque buildup in the arteries eventually leads to a heart attack.
How to Fix Your Body Clock
Below are some simple strategies that will help you get your body clock ticking smoothly again:
o Sleep and wake up at the same time every day
o Keep your bedroom cool, dark, and well-ventilated.
o Get plenty of bright light in the morning.
o Limit your screen time an hour or two before going to bed. It’s best to turn off your smartphone or never use it in your bedroom.
o Wear an eye mask or use dark curtains if extraneous light disturbs you.
o Never change your sleep schedule even when you have vacation days.
o Exercise to tire out your body. However, refrain from heavy aerobic exercise or weightlifting three to four hours before bedtime.
Sleep Expert in Weatherford, Texas
If you suspect that you have a sleep disorder, visit us at Lung & Sleep Specialists of North Texas for a consultation with our sleep expert, Dr. Olusegun Oseni.
Dr. Oseni is a board-certified internal medicine doctor who subspecializes in pulmonology, critical care medicine, and sleep medicine. Dr. Oseni will diagnose your condition by conducting a sleep study in our state-of-the-art, ultra-comfortable sleep center and, based on the results, will design a treatment plan that best suits your needs.