You’ve heard it a million times—getting enough sleep is incredibly important to your health. But have you ever considered that your late morning, weekend wake ups are actually harming you more than if you woke up at the same time as you normally do throughout the week? Several studies have been done over many years on this question of consistent sleep habits, and they’ve all found similar results: irregular sleep habits increase your risk of obesity-related (and other) diseases.
The term social jetlag was coined to describe this phenomenon of your weekday sleep habits of waking up with an alarm clock and your differing weekend sleep habits of waking up whenever your body naturally does so. The more your social jetlag, or the larger gap in your weekday and weekend sleep habits, the more likely you are to suffer from obesity and weight-related diseases, including heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, cancer, and possible early death.
Studies showed that even a 2 hour difference in your sleep habits (say waking at 8 AM as opposed to 6 AM) made a difference in the overall weight and health of individuals. If your sleep gap is even larger (say 5 AM as opposed to 9 AM), your risk of acquiring weight issues and weight-related diseases is even higher.
While the researchers in these studies don’t have conclusive evidence as to why weight is so closely related to sleep habits, they do have some speculations. Sleep-deprived individuals are less likely to partake in a regular exercise routine, and they are less likely to maintain a balanced and healthy diet. Additionally, people who are chronically tired also consume more caffeine, sugar, and alcohol to help them cope.
So while getting the recommended 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night is a good goal, strive to keep your sleeping and waking habits consistent throughout the week, regardless of what’s on the agenda for the day. You will be more well-rested, a healthier weight, and most likely an all-around happier person.