If you want to boost your metabolic health, you’ve got plenty of tried-and-true methods, such as eating more protein, strength training regularly, and sipping on green tea. But there’s something else you may want to factor in: regular sleep.
Recent research suggests that all of your metabolism-boosting efforts go to waste if you’re not getting in your zzzs. In fact, according to a recent study in Scientific Reports, sticking to a proper bedtime may be crucial for your metabolic health.
Your Bedtime & Your Metabolism
According to the researchers behind the Scientific Reports study, having a regular bedtime boosts your metabolic health, both in the short and long term.
“Many patients and physicians already know that getting enough sleep is important to heart and metabolic health,” says study co-author, clinical psychologist, and professor Jessica Lunsford-Avery, Ph.D. However, we usually only think about sleep in terms of duration, or hours of sleep logged.
This study aimed to take a broader look at sleep and metabolic health. “Our study shows that healthy sleep is determined not only by how long you sleep, but also by the timing of your sleep, the continuity of your sleep, and the effect of going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day,” says Lunsford-Avery.
The results? The researchers linked all of these factors (described as ‘sleep irregularity’) with metabolic problems like weight gain, unruly blood sugar, and cardiovascular issues.
To reach these conclusions, the researchers analyzed the sleeping patterns, physical health, and mental health of 1,978 American adults. Participants wore a physical activity- and ambient light-measuring wrist device and kept a sleep journal for seven days.
Throughout the week, the participants reported their daytime sleepiness. Meanwhile, the scientists evaluated their cardiovascular disease risk based on markers such as blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes status, and obesity. They also surveyed participants’ mental health.
The researchers found that irregular sleepers (who went to bed and woke up at different times on different days) weighed more, had higher blood sugar, higher blood pressure, and a higher projected risk of having a heart attack or stroke within 10 years than those who slept and woke at the same times every day,” says Lundsford-Avery. They were also more likely to report stress and depression, both of which can impact cardiometabolic health.
Though this study only observed patterns, it still paints a convincing picture about the importance of sleep for our health. It also suggests that simply getting the recommend 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night may not be enough.
Related: 4 Foods That’ll Put You To Sleep
According to Chris Winter, M.D., author of The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep is Broken and How to Fix It and medical director of the Sleep Medicine Center at Virginia’s Martha Jefferson Hospital, this study supports a growing body of research that highlights the importance of regular sleep and wake times. It reinforces that sleep sets the stage for the body’s schedule, and both short- and long-term health.
Luckily, adopting more regular sleep-and-wake patterns is pretty straightforward. “Our recommendation is simple,” says Lundsford-Avery. “Set your alarm clock for the same time each day, even on weekends. From there, set a regular bedtime and stick to it as best you can.”