The study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, found that routine sleep changes – like waking up early during the week – may increase the risk for metabolic health problems such as heart disease, diabetes and obesity.
Earlier research has already established that sleep interruption can cause negative health problems. A study reported by Medical News Today earlier this year, for example, found that those who work shifts – whose circadian rhythms are often disrupted because of irregular working hours – are at higher risk for bad metabolic health.
However, the team involved in this newest research – including Patricia Wong of the University of Pittsburgh – states that their study is the first to illustrate that even small disruptions to sleep schedules among working, healthy adults can harm metabolic health.
In order to get to their findings, Wong and colleagues examined data of 447 adults aged between 30 and 54 who were part of the Adult Health and Behavior Project Phase 2 Study. Volunteers worked a minimum of 25 hours a week outside of their home.
Participants had to wear a wristband that measured sleep movement and activity for 24 hours each day for one week. They also filled out a questionnaire detailing the exercise and diet habits.
The researchers found that participants who had a larger shift between their sleep schedules on non-working and working days – also known as “social jet lag” – were more probable to have higher fasting insulin levels and greater insulin resistance, higher body mass index (BMI), larger waist circumference and poor cholesterol levels, compared with those who had less social jet lag.
Wong noted that these metabolic health changes can partly cause development of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity.
The research team states that their results were the same even after taking subjects’ other sleep behaviors, physical activity and diet into account.
Wong states that if potential studies recreate what they discovered, then we may need to think about how social obligation and modern work are affecting our metabolic health and sleep.