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Last Updated on December 12, 2023

Are Cardiovascular and Metabolic Diseases Connected To Irregular Sleep Patterns?

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Written by Anđela Rajković

Sleep Consultant

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When it comes to sleep, we've all been there – juggling workdays and free days, often with different sleep timings. This common phenomenon is known as “social jetlag,” and while it might sound harmless, recent research suggests that it could have a more significant impact on our health than we previously thought.

A recent study, conducted on a nationally representative group of Czech households, has delved into the world of social jetlag, shedding light on how it relates to our overall well-being.

Here's a closer look at the study's key findings and what they mean for you:

Social jetlag explained

An image of a man turning off his alaram clock.

The internal body clock, known as your circadian rhythm, governs essential functions like sleep, hormone release, and even body temperature. Ideally, it's synchronised with the natural day-night cycle, encouraging you to sleep at night and stay awake during the day. This alignment is crucial for maintaining a regular sleep-wake cycle.

But what happens when this clock falls out of sync with your daily life, leading to an irregular sleep pattern?

That's where social jetlag comes into play!

Social jetlag is a term used to describe the misalignment between your body's internal clock and your daily activities and work schedule. It's like experiencing a time zone change without leaving your home. This phenomenon results in a difference in your sleep timing between workdays and your days off, disrupting the natural flow of your sleep-wake cycle.

Social jetlag is more widespread than you might think, affecting a significant portion of the population, with more than 80% of workers experiencing some degree of this circadian rhythm sleep disorder.

So, if you've ever struggled to wake up on weekdays while enjoying long, restful weekends, you're not alone in facing the challenges of an irregular sleep pattern and the consequences of a disrupted circadian rhythm.

The study's mission

The study had three primary objectives:

The discoveries

The study meticulously analysed nine biomarkers related to metabolism, cardiovascular health, endocrine function, and the immune system.

What does it mean for you?

While this study offers intriguing insights into the relationship between sleep, social jetlag, and health, it's important to note that it primarily identifies associations, not direct causal relationships. Further research is necessary to fully understand the complex interplay between these factors.

However, the implications for individuals are clear: paying attention to your sleep patterns and finding ways to align them better with your daily life could have profound implications for your long-term health and overall quality of life. Recognising the importance of your chronotype and adjusting to your daily routine accordingly could be a valuable step toward improved well-being.

Understanding chronotypes and health

An image of a man sleeping.

Chronotypes are our genetically determined preferences for different times of the day. They are often classified into three categories: morning chronotypes (morning people), evening chronotypes (night owls), and intermediate chronotypes (neither strongly morning nor evening-oriented).

  • Morning chronotypes tend to feel most alert and energetic in the early hours of the day and may naturally wake up early.
  • Evening chronotypes, on the other hand, come alive in the evening and may find it challenging to wake up early in the morning.
  • Intermediate chronotypes fall somewhere in between.

Research suggests that chronotype can influence various aspects of health. For example, morning chronotypes may have an advantage in terms of metabolic health, as their internal body clocks align more closely with the traditional nine-to-five workday. Evening chronotypes, however, may experience more social jetlag and face health challenges associated with misalignment between their internal clocks and societal schedules.

The possibility for future research

While this study provides crucial insights, it opens the door to many more questions. Researchers are eager to explore topics such as the impact of social jetlag and irregular sleep-wake syndrome on mental health, the potential long-term effects of remote work on sleep patterns, and personalised approaches to sleep management based on individual chronotypes. The journey to understanding the intricate relationship between sleep, health, and irregular sleep-wake syndrome is far from over.

Conclusion

Your sleep schedule isn't just about getting a good night's rest (or about improving the quality of your sleep); it's about safeguarding your overall health. As scientists continue to explore the mysteries of our internal biological clocks, stay tuned for further research on this captivating topic. In the meantime, we advise you to read the original sleep study that this article is based upon!

By understanding and actively managing social jetlag and aligning your sleep patterns with your chronotype, you can take proactive steps toward better health and well-being.

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About the author

Anđela Rajković
As a CPD certified Sleep Consultant and well-practiced sleep enthusiast, I find a lot of joy in bringing my expertise to our readers – preferably those who love to sleep. With a background in the English language and literature and a love of research, I'm always seeking new ways to share the latest sleep science and bed-related findings. And, when I'm not connecting with my readers, you can find me exploring the great outdoors, or, well, curling up in bed.
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