In brief, what the researchers found was that a regular sleeping pattern – that is, sticking to a consistent bedtime and wake-up schedule and getting the same amount of sleep each night – could reduce your likelihood of developing metabolic conditions such as obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high blood sugar.
And the reduction can be a significant one: for every hour of variability in time to bed and time asleep, it was found that an individual could have up to a 27 per cent greater chance of experiencing a metabolic abnormality.
Specifically, increasing sleep duration or bedtime variability was strongly associated with issues such as lower HDL cholesterol, higher levels of triglycerides and fasting glucose – and a higher waist circumference.
And that matters not only in terms of how you look and feel – those few pounds you want to shift – but also because of the associated health risks.
• Waist size isn’t only about the clothes size you have to wear. Having too much fat around the stomach area can raise the risk of heart disease more than fat stored in other areas of the body.
• HDL helps carry cholesterol away from arteries; insufficient HDL can raise the risk of heart disease.
• Consistently high blood pressure can cause plaque to build up in arteries, which in turn leads to heart damage.
• And high levels of fasting blood glucose can be an early sign of diabetes, which in turn dramatically increases the risk of cardiovascular disease.