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Large Study May Carry Good News for Early Birds

Night owls take note: a study found people who are early-to-bed and early-to-rise are likely to have other good habits that lead to better cardiovascular health. The study, published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine, drew its sample from the UK’s Biobank Resource, and included 439,933 adults between the ages of 40 and 69. Participants provided information about an array of lifestyle habits, including the duration and timing of their sleep. They were also asked to assess their chronotype—the degree to which they saw themselves as either a morning person or an evening person. The researchers then looked for patterns that might link sleep habits and chronotype to three specific behaviors associated with poor cardiovascular health—smoking, poor diet, and sedentary habits. These three factors are believed to be associated with 40% of cardiovascular deaths in the US and the UK. Here is what researchers found:

  • Participants whose sleep was short (less than six hours) and participants who described themselves as an “evening person” (late chronotypes) were more likely to smoke than participants who got adequate sleep (seven to eight hours) and participants with a more balanced chronotype.
  • Participants whose sleep was long (nine hours or more) spent more time watching television than participants with adequate sleep.
  • Participants who described themselves as a “morning person” (early chronotypes) spent less time on the computer and ate more fruits and vegetables than participants with other chronotypes.

While it is well established that both sleep deprivation and sleep excess are associated with heart disease and poor health, these findings suggest that too little and too much sleep may also be linked to habits and behaviors that compound health dangers. More research is needed to understand the connections between sleep, unhealthy behaviors, and cardiovascular risk, and to show whether changing sleep patterns can improve cardiovascular health. In the meantime, it appears that the old adage, “Early-to-bed and early-to-rise makes a man [or woman] healthy, wealthy and wise,” is at least partly true.

Source: Annals of Behavioral Medicine

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