Find your sleep sweet spot

By Faeza
26 April 2016

Sweet sleep

Night owls should take special note of a new study, which found that the early-to-bed, early-to-rise approach aligns much better with cardiovascular health.

Sleep deficits and poor-quality sleep have been linked to obesity and a myriad of health problems. On the other hand, getting adequate sleep at optimal times seems to reduce the kind of behaviours - smoking, sedentary lifestyles and poor dietary choices - that put one's heart in harm's way.

The perfect amount of sleep

Using data from the United Kingdom's Biobank Resource of 439 933 adults, the study defined short sleep as less than six hours, adequate sleep as seven to eight hours, and long sleep as nine hours or more.

Participants were asked about their sleep timing, physical activity, how much time they spent using a computer or watching TV on an average day, how many servings of fruits and vegetables they had each day and how many cigarettes they typically smoked in an average day.

The study found that those whose sleep was either short or long, and the night owls who went to bed later, were more likely to smoke, remain sedentary and eat fewer fruits and vegetables, than adequate sleepers and those who went to bed earlier.

"There are some who believe that sleep as a physiological function is upstream of these heart health behaviours," said researcher Freda Patterson, assistant professor of behavioural health and nutrition in the University of Delaware’s College of Health Sciences. "If that is true, the implication would be that if we can modify sleep as a central risk factor, we might be in much better position to leverage or modify some of our most stubborn cardiovascular risk behaviours such as tobacco use."