We write a lot about how sleep quality impacts your health. Good sleep is crucial to staying healthy and aging well. It’s essential to both your physical and mental health. We’re written about how to improve it, ways poor sleep impacts you, how much sleep you need and more. We haven’t written about what time your bedtime should be.
A new study says that the optimal bedtime for heart heath is 10 pm. This might come as a disappointment to people who like to turn in early and folks who stay up late, but there is a window, at 10 pm or just after that that appears to be the sweet spot for dozing off.
The study doesn’t prove anything. It’s just that there appears to be a link. Data from more than 88,000 people found that those who fell asleep at, or just after, 10 at night were less likely to develop heart disease than people who went to bed earlier or later. The study took place over 5.7 years, none of the participants had a sleep disorder or heart problem to begin with and they wore wrist bands to record when they fell asleep. The researchers adjusted for all the common risks for heart problems and factors like age, sex and socioeconomic status.
One theory from the researchers as to why shifting your sleep either way might be unhealthy is that you might miss out on daylight cues that help your body balance itself. “That misalignment of behaviors… increases inflammation and can impair glucose regulation, both of which can increase risk of cardiovascular disease,” said Dr. David Plans. He was the co-author of the study and is a senior lecturer at the Univ. of Exeter.
“The body has a 24-hour internal clock, called circadian rhythm, that helps regulate physical and mental functioning,” said Dr. Plans. “While we cannot conclude causation from our study, the results suggest that early or late bedtimes may be more likely to disrupt the body clock, with adverse consequences for cardiovascular health.”
He went on to say that, “While the findings do not show causality, sleep timing has emerged as a potential cardiac risk factor — independent of other risk factors and sleep characteristics. If our findings are confirmed in other studies, sleep timing and basic sleep hygiene could be a low-cost public health target for lowering risk of heart disease.”
Others disagree with this new study.
“If you go to bed every night between 10 to 11 pm, you probably have a pretty predictable and consistent schedule — things necessary to go to the gym, work out, etc.,” said Dr. Christopher Winter., a neurologist and sleep specialist. “Sleep plays a huge role in overall health — I’m not sure there are many factors that are bigger. Do not shortchange your sleep, even if you feel okay doing so. It is a major factor in your short- and long-term health.”
This study cannot prove that a 10 pm bedtime is best; it can only show a link, not cause and effect. However, if you think you should be getting more shuteye or are concerned about your sleep schedule, it might be worth trying to shift your bedtime to try falling asleep closer to 10 pm. That means getting into bed before 10 — very few of us fall asleep the moment we climb into bed. Between reading, setting alarms and just waiting to drift off, it’s not immediate. So, go to bed a bit earlier, or a little later, your heart may thank you!