Despite increasing awareness of how critical sleep is to our health, getting a good night’s rest remains increasingly difficult in a world that’s always “on”—responding to emails at all hours, news cycles that change with every tweet and staring endlessly into the blue light of cell phone, tablet, and computers screens.
Scientists have stressed the importance of healthy sleep habits, recommending at least seven hours each night, and have linked lack of sleep to an increased risk in numerous health conditions, including diabetes, stroke, and heart disease.
A recent study from the University of Notre Dame found that whether or not you go to bed on time could have a strong effect on your health.
The researchers examined the link between bedtime regularity and resting heart rate (RHR).
They found that people going to bed even 30 minutes later than their usual bedtime presented a much higher resting heart rate that lasted into the following day.
The study is published in npj Digital Medicine. The lead author is Nitesh Chawla.
Previous research has shown an increase in resting heart rate means an increased risk to heart health.
In this study, the team analyzed data collected via Fitbit from 557 college students over the course of four years. They recorded 255,736 sleep sessions—measuring bedtimes, sleep, and resting heart rate.
They found that even if people get seven hours of sleep a night, if they are not going to bed at the same time each night, not only does their resting heart rate increase while they sleep, it carries over into the next day.
Big increases in RHR were observed when people went to bed anywhere between one and 30 minutes later than their normal bedtime.
Normal bedtime was defined as the one-hour interval surrounding a person’s median bedtime. The later they went to bed, the higher the increase in RHR. Rates remained elevated into the following day.
The team also found going to bed earlier than one’s standard bedtime showed signs of increasing RHR, though it depended on just how early.
Going to bed 30 minutes earlier than usual appeared to have little effect while going to bed more than a half-hour earlier strong increased RHR.
In cases of earlier bedtimes, however, RHR leveled out during the sleep session.
The team says the body clock, medications, and lifestyle factors all come into play when it comes to healthy sleep habits, but it’s vital to consider consistency as well.
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