Can Sleeping Late on Weekends Kill You?

Photo (cc) by Tambako the Jaguar

Varying your sleep schedule can endanger your life.

New research shows that even routine changes in a person’s sleep schedule can increase the risk of serious health conditions such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

At issue is what’s known as “social jet lag.” Researcher Patricia Wong of the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Psychology tells the Endocrine Society that the term refers to “the mismatch between an individual’s biological circadian rhythm and their socially imposed sleep schedules.”

Wong explains of her findings, which were recently published by the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism:

“Other researchers have found that social jet lag relates to obesity and some indicators of cardiovascular function. However, this is the first study to extend upon that work and show that even among healthy, working adults who experience a less extreme range of mismatches in their sleep schedule, social jet lag can contribute to metabolic problems.”

Such metabolic changes can contribute to the development of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

For the study, researchers analyzed data on a group of 447 men and women between the ages of 30 and 54 who worked outside the home for at least 25 hours per week.

They found that the effects of social jet lag are worse for study participants who had greater differences between their workday sleep schedules and their free-day sleep schedules. Compared with participants who had less social jet lag, these participants tended to have:

  • Poorer cholesterol profiles
  • Higher fasting insulin levels
  • Larger waist circumference
  • Higher body-mass index

Their bodies also were more resistant to insulin.

Wong says:

“If future studies replicate what we found here, then we may need to consider as a society how modern work and social obligations are affecting our sleep and health.”

How has social jet lag affected your life? Sound off in our Forums. It’s the place where you can speak your mind, explore topics in-depth, and post questions and get answers.

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