Early birds vs night owls: for people with diabetes, an early bedtime is best

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In a new study, researchers found that people who go to bed early are more likely to be in better health and more physically active compared to night owls.

They assessed the bedtime preferences (sleep chronotypes) of people with type 2 diabetes, identifying a connection between bedtimes and healthy, active lifestyles.

They found night owls (people who went to late and got up late, or ‘evening chronotypes’) have an excessively sedentary lifestyle characterized by low levels and low intensities of physical activity – and that this is putting their health at greater risk.

The research was conducted by a team at the University of Leicester and the University of South Australia.

Type 2 diabetes is largely the result of excess body weight and physical inactivity. Globally 463 million people – or one in 11 adults have diabetes – a statistic that is expected to rise to 700 million by 2040.

Concerningly, 1.9 billion adults are overweight, with 650 million of these are obese.

As the global prevalence of type 2 diabetes and obesity continue to rise, finding ways to negate these health issues is critical.

Understanding how people’s sleep time preferences can impact their level of physical activity could help people with type 2 diabetes better manage their health.

In the study, the team examined 635 patients with type 2 diabetes, each wearing an accelerometer for seven days to record the intensity and time of different physical behaviors: sleep, rest, overall physical activity.

They found 25% of participants had morning chronotypes (a preference to go to be early and get up early, with an average bedtime of 22:52); 23% had evening chronotypes (a preference to go to bed late and get up late, with an average bedtime of 00:36); and 52% said they had neither.

For people who prefer to go to bed later and get up later, this is even more important, with the research showing that night owls exercise 56% less than their early bird counterparts.

The findings provide a unique insight into the behaviors of people with type 2 diabetes.

Exercise plays an important role for people with diabetes, helping maintain a healthy weight and blood pressure, as well as reducing the risk of heart disease – all significant factors for improving diabetes management.

The links between later sleep times and physical activity is clear: go to bed late and people are less likely to be active.

For someone with diabetes, this is valuable information that could help get them back on a path to good health.

One author of the study is Dr. Joseph Henson from the University of Leicester.

The study is published in BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care.

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