People who stick to a bedtime and wake-up schedule every day would reap health benefits, including a lower risk of developing metabolic disorders.

A new study backed by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute found that people who have irregular sleeping habits are more likely to experience high cholesterol, obesity, hypertension, high blood sugar, and other metabolic abnormalities.

"Many previous studies have shown the link between insufficient sleep and higher risk of obesity, diabetes, and other metabolic disorders," said Tianyi Huang, an epidemiologist at the Channing Division of Network Medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. "But we didn't know much about the impact of irregular sleep, high day-to-day variability in sleep duration and timing."

Dangers Of Having Irregular Sleeping Habits

The study published in the journal Diabetes Care followed over 2,000 men and women between the ages of 45 and 84 for over six years. Each participant wore wristwatches that monitored their sleep schedules for a week. They also kept a sleep diary and answered standard questions about their sleep, lifestyle, and overall health.

The researchers found that after adjusting for average sleep duration, participants who have greater variations in their bedtime have a higher prevalence of metabolic problems after 6.3 years of follow-up. The researchers believe this proves that there is a causal link between irregular sleeping habits and metabolic dysfunction.

The study added that every hour of variability in time of bed and time of sleep raises a person's risk of experiencing a metabolic abnormality to up to 27 percent. African-Americans, people with non-day shift work schedules, smokers, and have shorter sleep duration were more likely to have more than one hour of variability. They also have a higher likelihood of experiencing depressive symptoms, higher total caloric intake, and sleep apnea.

Sticking To A Schedule, Having Enough Sleep Are Equally Important

Current recommendations are focused on prescribing sufficient amount of sleep. Both the National Institute of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that adults should get at least seven to eight hours of sleep every day to perform at their best and to reap its health benefits.

However, the study proved that a regular sleep schedule is also necessary. Susan Redline, a senior physician from the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at Brigham and Women's Hospital, is urging experts to enrich current prevention strategies for metabolic diseases.

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