The weekends are made for sleeping in aren’t they? Those two glorious days where you don’t have to set an alarm and you can wakeup as early or as late as you like. There’s no harm in that is there? Yes, there is actually. The University of Pittsburgh have reported findings that sleeping in late at the weekends can contribute to a range of health problems, from high body fat to increased insulin sensitivity. They have found that sleeping in late has a similar effect on your health as shift work, which in the past has been attributed to an increased risk in heart disease and diabetes. For seven days, 447 and women age 30 to 54 wore devices that measured movement and tracked when they fell asleep and woke. Researchers found that those that woke later on their days off (85% of the participants) had a greater metabolic risk. Sleeping late on days off has been linked to lower HDL cholesterol, known as good cholesterol, higher insulin resistance and higher body mass index.
The team, led by Patricia Wong, looked at the common scenario in which we change “time zone” between our preferred sleeping schedule at the weekend and the sleeping schedule imposed by their employer. ‘Social jetlag’ as it is so named, is now known to be related to metabolic risk factors, and this is the first evidence that suggests that it contributes to a risk of developing obesity, type 2 diabetes and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. Naturally it was found that evening types were more prone to social jetlag than morning types and Wired reports that this is the first study to specifically look at the effect of socially-induced sleep rhythm disruption. Patricia Wong has said that “It’s not clear yet that this is a long-term effect…but we think of this as people having to sleep and work out of sync with their internal clock, and that having to be out of sync may be having these health effects”. I vote we don’t start the working day until eleven am, who’s with me?