Does Your Sleep Clock Keep the Right Time?


Businessman Sleeping at His Desk

Do you sleep later on weekends and wake up much earlier on weekdays? If so, your varying sleep habits may be negatively impacting your overall health. A research study conducted at the University of Pittsburgh's Sleep and Chronobiology Center concluded that middle-aged adults with a greater sleep discrepancy on weekdays versus their days off tended to suffer adverse health consequences. When compared to those who went to bed and woke up around the same time every day, the test group had a tendency to be heavier, were more insulin resistant and had higher cholesterol levels.

We all have an internal clock and disruptions to your circadian sleep rhythms make it difficult to know when it is really the time to sleep as well as when to wake up. If your normal sleep cycles are disrupted by working a late shift or staying up with a sick child, you may feel groggy the next day or even have difficulty falling asleep that evening. By changing our sleeping patterns over a short period of time, we are causing our natural rhythm to become out of sync. Researchers have concluded, the more dramatic the difference between weekday and weekend sleep patterns, the more likely an individual will have lower levels of good cholesterol and higher levels of triglycerides.

Sleep cycles and circadian rhythms are increasingly recognized as important determinants of good health for the proper functioning of the body's internal systems. The risk of adverse health outcomes such as depression, weight gain, cognitive impairment, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and diabetes increase with inconsistent sleep patterns. Additionally, abundant evidence indicates that disturbances in sleep cycles may contribute to an increased risk for alcohol use and abuse. So, sleeping a few extra hours on the weekend may actually be bad for you and a precursor to heart disease.

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