By: April Carson
Our bodies rely on a regular sleep schedule to regulate internal processes. Interruptions to our circadian rhythm, caused by going to bed and waking up at varying times, can increase the risk of mortality over time. That said, inconsistent sleep patterns could be a symptom of underlying medical issues. Rather than causing morbidity, these aberrations in sleep are likely to be correlated with it.
A seven-year study on middle-aged and older adults found that irregular sleep patterns increase the risk of death from cancer and heart disease, compared to those who maintain a regular sleep schedule. In addition, people who experience chronic insomnia have a higher risk of developing mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety.
Research suggests that getting adequate rest is essential for a healthy lifestyle and helps maintain overall wellbeing. It’s important to get seven to nine hours of sleep every night and stick to a consistent bedtime routine in order to reap the full benefits.
"Our study, to my knowledge, is the largest to investigate the impact of sleep irregularity on all-cause mortality," states Matthew Pase, co-author of the study and an associate professor of psychology at Monash University in Australia. "Our findings demonstrate that sleep regularity has an independent influence on mortality, irrespective of sleep duration."
Adopting healthy sleep habits such as avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bedtime, going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, exercising regularly but not too late in the evening, relaxing before bedtime with activities like journaling, reading or yoga can help you stay on track. Furthermore, seeking treatment for underlying medical conditions that disrupt sleep, such as depression or anxiety, can ensure better quality and quantity of sleep over time. Ultimately, these strategies may help reduce the risk of mortality associated with irregular sleeping patterns.
In an effort to study sleep regularity, Pase and team gathered data from 90,000 individuals in the UK. Participants wore movement-tracking devices on their wrist for one week, ranging from 40 to 70 years old. Through analyzing this data, the researchers were able to determine a sleep regularity score for each participant. This score is defined as the probability of being awake or asleep at the same time between any two consecutive days.
The team then followed up with participants after an average of 6.5 years, and found that those who had a lower sleep regularity score (ie. more irregular sleep patterns) were at higher risk of mortality than those with a higher score. Specifically, those who had the lowest 25% scores for sleep regularity were 21% more likely to die during the follow-up period than those with higher scores.
A group of participants scored in the fifth percentile for their low sleep regularity, with a 41% chance of being awake or asleep at the same time for two days in a row. Those in the 50th percentile with average sleep regularity had a 61% chance of being asleep at the same time on consecutive days.
After studying the data for seven years, it was found that out of the participants, 3,010 passed away. The results showed that individuals receiving low sleep regularity scores during the follow-up period were 46% more at risk of dying from any cause than those with average scores.
Out of the total deaths reported, 1,701 were due to cancer and 616 were attributed to cardiovascular disease. Shocking research shows that individuals with low sleep regularity scores have a 33% higher chance of dying from cancer and a staggering 73% increased risk of dying from cardiovascular disease compared to those with average scores. Don't underestimate the importance of healthy sleep habits. "It's a public health issue that needs to be addressed by ensuring people have regular sleeping patterns", said Pase.
The thorough analysis considered variations in the participants' age, ethnicity, gender, smoking habits, presence of diabetes, heart complications and cancer, educational background, income, and average nightly sleep duration.
The correlation between shifts in sleep and wake times and increased risk of chronic diseases is well-documented, explained Pase. It's important to note that these disruptions can hinder important bodily processes like tissue repair and metabolism, exacerbating the issue. On the other hand, bodily changes that contribute to conditions like cancer and heart disease may also be a root cause of irregular sleep patterns.
This study provides important insights into how our sleep habits may affect our longevity. It is important to note that this was an observational study, so it cannot necessarily be concluded that irregular sleep patterns directly cause mortality; however, this data does suggest a link between the two. Further research is needed to better understand the relationship between sleep patterns and health outcomes. In the meantime, it is important to prioritize getting adequate, regular sleep each night in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
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April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com
To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav
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