There are many scientific tips on battling insomnia but one of the most important which is unfortunately often ignored, is maintaining a regular sleep schedule.
Our internal body clocks are disrupted when we alternate between wake-up times.
According to sleep medicine specialist, Dr. Sabra Abbott, this is known as “social jet lag” among sleep professionals.
And sure enough, that is a really fitting name since going to bed at radically different times from one night to the next can disrupt your circadian rhythm in a way similar to changing time zones.
However, behavioral epidemiologist Kelsie Full admits that keeping a proper sleeping schedule is much easier said than done: “It’s a luxury, right?”
After all, anybody who has worked a night shift, raised a child, or struggled to find their way home after a party is all too aware that for the majority of people, more often than not, a precise sleep time is not very realistic.
A recent study that linked irregular sleep to cardiovascular disease has Dr. Full as its lead author.
Researchers looked at a week’s worth of sleep data from 2,000 adults over the age of 45 and discovered that people with irregular sleep routines were more likely to experience hardened arteries than people with more consistent sleep schedules.
Compared to the participants who slept the same amount every single night, people whose sleep varied by 2 or more hours from night to night were at a particularly high risk of having high levels of built up, calcified fatty plaque in their arteries.
According to Dr. Full, the study was unable to conclusively show that irregular sleep patterns were to blame for the heart problems.
Furthermore, the results don’t necessarily rule out the possibility of having an occasional late night or early morning.
Dr. Tianyi Huang also confirmed that “An off day or two is OK. It’s more about the long-term pattern.”
According to Aric Prather, a psychologist and sleep expert, most people won’t have their entire circadian rhythm disturbed by one or two nights of irregular sleeping.
In fact, if you happen to go to bed at 4 AM one night, you’re actually better off waking up late instead of suffering the unfortunate effects of sleep loss by waking up 3 hours later just to keep the schedule going.
All in all, the latest research confirms what earlier studies have suggested: Regular sleep is essential for good health.
According to a 2020 study, people between the ages of 45 and 84 who had irregular sleep schedules had nearly double the risk of cardiovascular disease as those who did keep a regular sleep schedule.
Circadian rhythm disruptions were also linked to a higher risk of mood disorders in another study involving over 90,000 individuals.
Even high cholesterol and high blood pressure have been linked to irregular sleeping patterns.