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Poor sleep patterns raise risks of metabolic disorders

tired nurse
Photo: Drazen Zigic/iStockphoto

Bethesda, MD — Irregular sleep patterns do more than just make you tired at work – they can have long-lasting adverse effects on your health.

According to a study conducted by researchers at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, for every hour of variability in your bedtime and time asleep, you could face up to a 27% higher risk of metabolic syndrome, which the National Institutes of Health defines as “a group of risk factors that raises your risk for heart disease and other health problems, such as diabetes and stroke.”

For the study, researchers followed more than 2,000 men and women ages 45 to 84 for a median of six years to learn about the links between irregular sleep and metabolic abnormalities. Participants wore an actigraph watch to track sleep schedules, kept a sleep diary, and completed questionnaires about sleep habits and other lifestyle and health factors.

“Many previous studies have shown the link between insufficient sleep and higher risk of obesity, diabetes and other metabolic disorders,” researcher Tianyi Huang, an epidemiologist at Brigham and Women’s, said in a June 5 press release. “But we didn’t know much about the impact of irregular sleep, high day-to-day variability in sleep duration and timing. Our research shows that, even after considering the amount of sleep a person gets and other lifestyle factors, every one-hour night-to-night difference in the time to bed or the duration of a night’s sleep multiplies the adverse metabolic effect.”


Among participants whose sleep varied more than an hour were smokers, African Americans, and night shift workers. The researchers recommend maintaining a regular sleep schedule to help prevent metabolic disorders and improve overall health.

The study was published online June 5 in the journal Diabetes Care.

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