Sleeping in on Weekends Is Bad for Heart

Most of us are guilty of staying in bed late on Saturday morning. In fact, many view it as one of the nicest activities of the week!

It’s a pleasant, lazy way to celebrate getting through a busy week and catch up on some much-needed sleep, right? Not according to a new study. Scientists at Kings College London found that people who stayed up later and woke up 90 minutes later on weekends have gut bacteria linked to heart attacks, obesity and strokes. People with the sleep pattern tended to eat less fruit, drink more soda and have a poorer diet overall. The study used 1,000 people who were generally healthy and got more than seven hours of sleep. It measured their blood sugar and took gut samples.

Dr. Wendy Hall, from King’s College, said, “We know that major disruptions in sleep, such as shift work, can have a profound impact on your health. This is the first study to show that even small differences in sleep timings across the week seems to be linked to differences in gut bacterial species. Some of these associations were linked to dietary differences but our data also indicates that other as yet unknown factors may be involved.”

The mix of microbes in your microbiome can substantially impact your health. Diet and behavior can alter your microbiome. People who slept in every week were far more likely to have three out of six harmful bacteria in their guts. While older studies have shown that working the night shift harms metabolic health, this is the first to show that weekly disruptions can be harmful. Staying up late and sleeping in is called “social jetlag,” as it’s often a side effect of spending time doing fun activities. But keeping a normal sleep schedule is important for good health.

The bad bacteria produce toxins in the gut. What is unclear is if poor sleep itself caused the higher amount of bacteria or if it was linked to diet. And, while there appeared to be a link between social jetlag and a poorer diet, it’s unclear if lack of sleep led to bad food choices or if another factor is at play. While that isn’t clear, sleeping well helps you make better food choices. So, it could be a step in the right direction.

Poor quality sleep impacts choices — and people crave higher carb or sugary foods,” said Dr. Kate, the study’s author Bermingham.

Dr. Sarah Berry of King’s College said, “Maintaining regular sleep patterns, so when we go to bed and when we wake each day, is an easily adjustable lifestyle behavior we can all do, that may impact your health via your gut microbiome for the better.”

Just as actual jet lag can lead to fatigue, irritability and difficulty concentrating, social jet lag can result in similar symptoms, affecting mood and cognitive function,” said nutritionist Shikha Agarwal. Your body and brain function best when you are well rested.

Some people try to “catch up” on sleep they miss during the week on weekends. But sleep debt takes several days to recover from. Getting into a cycle of skipping sleep on weekdays and sleeping on weekends will harm your health in the long term. Chronic sleep debt is linked to lower immune function, metabolic and heart issues, weight gain, more accidents and cognitive problems.

Setting a sleep schedule and sticking to it seven days a week can boost your overall health and help your heart. You may also find it easier to make healthier dietary choices!  

Banner image: Ketut Subiyanto via Pexels

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