Tucking into bed at an early hour has never been called the “cool” thing to do, but it’s always been considered a healthy habit. For instance, the “early to bed, early to rise” type is less likely to experience negative thinking, according to a study from Cognitive Therapy and Research. Plus, many people believe they are more productive during the day if they go to bed before 10 p.m.
Now, there’s an even better reason to go to sleep early. Research from the BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care suggests that sleeping and waking at earlier hours can promote better health. In contrast, going to bed late was linked to a sedentary lifestyle and very low levels of weekly physical activity. While previous investigations uncovered a link between night owls and obesity, a connection between frequent late nights and type 2 diabetes had not yet been established.
During the study, researchers at the University of Leicester and the University of South Australia set out to observe the sleep and activity habits of people who had type 2 diabetes. All of the participants were recruited from four areas in the Midlands, UK. The 635 volunteers were required to wear an accelerometer that measured their sleep patterns, levels of day-to-day activity, and physical activity for one week. Investigators found that 25 percent of participants preferred going to bed early and waking up early, while 23 percent preferred going to bed late and waking up late. About 52 percent didn’t have a preference.
Upon analyzing the data, researchers learned that participants who went to bed late lived more sedentary lifestyles than those who went to bed early and woke up early. In addition, the early risers had higher levels of moderate to vigorous physical activity logged on their accelerometers.
We should note that more research is needed to understand the connection between late nights and type 2 diabetes. After all, those who participated in the study may have purposely improved their sleep and physical activity habits for the week, knowing their stats would be used in the data. Still, previous studies back up these findings on late nights and sedentary lifestyles.
An investigation published in The Journal of Biological and Medical Rhythm Research, for example, found that people who go to bed late are more likely to spend more time sitting than those who go to bed early. And according to a study published in Sleep Medicine, healthy adults are more likely to have low levels of physical activity when they constantly go to bed late.
Why are these findings concerning if you have type 2 diabetes or hyperglycemia? The CDC reports that being overweight and living a sedentary lifestyle are two big risk factors for type 2 diabetes. For clarity, a sedentary lifestyle is defined by the CDC as engaging in some form of physical activity less than three times per week. Though age and genetics play important roles in hyperglycemia, research has proven that certain lifestyle changes will help prevent you from developing the disease. If you already have type 2 diabetes, healthy habits can help you manage your symptoms and even help you go into remission.
In addition, going to sleep earlier can prevent you from late-night snacking. A study performed in 2013 by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and published in the journal Sleep found that participants who went to bed late were more likely to eat more. In fact, those who stayed up until 4 a.m. consumed an average of 550 more calories than those who went to bed at 10 p.m.
What does all of this mean for you? First, if you are trying to lose weight and prevent hyperglycemia, restructure you should think about restructuring your sleeping habits. Getting to bed early may be a crucial step in improving your exercise regimen, because it can help you boost your consistency. To reset your circadian rhythm, try gradually adjusting your bedtime. You may also consider eating an earlier dinner, avoiding caffeine after a certain time, and limiting your screen time before bed. Practicing just five minutes of meditation or stretching may help quiet your mind and make it easier to drift off at an early time as well. Above all, remember that consistency is the key to changing deeply ingrained habits.