Are lie-ins making you fat?

By admin
23 January 2015

According to the UK’s Medical Research Council, changing your sleeping patterns on Saturdays and Sundays could have a radical impact on your health.

Picture the scene: you’ve had a week crammed with early starts and late nights, and now the weekend has rolled around. What a thrill not to have to set the alarm for 6am, right? You can finally enjoy a peaceful slumber, safe in the knowledge that you’re allowing your body time to catch up on some much needed rest. Well sorry to break it to you, but that’s not the case.

It’s suggested those who don’t stick to set times in bed have a higher risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

It’s not great news, we know, but it’s come after scientists looked at the heath and sleeping habits of 800 people of both sexes aged 38. Of particular interest to them was the difference in sleeping hours during the week and weekends, which they refer to as “social jetlag”.

To work this out, you compare the middle hour of someone’s sleep during the working week to the middle hour at the weekend. As an example, if one person is resting between 11pm and 7am Monday – Friday, 3am is the middle time. But if they stay up later at the weekend and push their sleep back to between midnight and 10am, the middle would be 5am. That leaves a social jetlag of two hours.

It was found that people who have some level of social jetlag are more likely to be obese, plus they have body factors which can lead to heart attacks, strokes and diabetes. Even just a two-hour difference could start to cause some of these issues.

Unfortunately there is no set explanation for why this is the case, although it’s been mooted that altering the time we sleep might affect our DNA and so encourage genes which impact fat and sugar to work at the wrong times. Appetite also comes into play here, as people who have stayed up late at the weekend might feel more tired during the week, and so make poor food decisions as they are looking for something to help wake them up – ie. a treat stuffed with sugar.

Michael Parsons was the lead on the study and explained part of the reason social jetlag might have such an impact is because it happens so often; usually every week. He added that he isn’t telling people never to have a lie-in; rather that flexible working hours could be the key.

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