In a new study from the University of Exeter, researchers found going to sleep between 10:00 and 11:00 pm is linked to a lower risk of developing heart disease compared to earlier or later bedtimes.
The body has a 24-hour internal clock, called circadian rhythm, that helps regulate physical and mental functioning.
The results suggest that early or late bedtimes may be more likely to disrupt the body clock, with adverse consequences for heart health.
In the study, the team analyzed data from 88,026 individuals in the UK Biobank recruited between 2006 and 2010. The average age was 61 years (range 43 to 79 years) and 58% were women.
Participants were then followed up for a new diagnosis of cardiovascular disease, which was defined as a heart attack, heart failure, stroke, and transient ischaemic attack.
During an average follow-up of 5.7 years, 3,172 participants (3.6%) developed cardiovascular disease.
Incidence was highest in those with sleep times at midnight or later and lowest in those with sleep onset from 10:00 to 10:59 pm.
The team found compared to sleep onset from 10:00 to 10:59 pm, there was a 25% higher risk of heart disease with sleep onset at midnight or later, a 12% greater risk for 11:00 to 11:59 pm, and a 24% raised risk for falling asleep before 10:00 pm.
The study indicates that the optimum time to go to sleep is at a specific point in the body’s 24-hour cycle and deviations may be detrimental to health.
The riskiest time was after midnight, potentially because it may reduce the likelihood of seeing morning light, which resets the body clock.
The team says while the findings do not show causality, sleep timing has emerged as a potential cardiac risk factor—independent of other risk factors.
If the findings are confirmed in other studies, sleep timing and basic sleep hygiene could be a low-cost public health target for lowering the risk of heart disease.
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The study is published in European Heart Journal—Digital Health. One author of the study is Dr. David Plans.
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