The study showed that irregular sleeping patterns — people who go to sleep at different times throughout the week, or who get an inconsistent number of hours of shut-eye each night — could have a higher chance of developing atherosclerosis (hardening of the blood vessels).
This can cause arteries to narrow, reducing blood flow and the amount of oxygen and other nutrients reaching the body, or can create blood clots that block the artery, leading to a heart attack or stroke.
The study found that participants whose sleep duration varied for more than two hours across the course of a week were 40 per cent more likely to have high amounts of hardened plaque in their arteries. What’s more, fragmented or erratic sleep patterns have also been linked to heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. Erratic sleep patterns can also affect mood, and this in turn can increase stress hormones in the body, which raises the risk of things such as heart disease.
The key to this is establishing a pattern and sticking to it. All those determined to try to break the habit and get back into a regular sleeping pattern should take note of the following-
- The first step is to set up a bedtime routine that begins at the same time each night, irrespective of whether you feel tired. By creating habits and cues over time, your brain will learn to associate this with getting sleepy.
- Consider setting a warning alarm on your phone two hours before you plan to start getting ready for bed.
- Different people need different amounts of sleep at night.
- It’s not just getting to bed at the same time that’s important — it’s also getting up in the morning.
- Avoid afternoon naps or dozing on the sofa after work.
- Avoid stimulants.
- Follow your schedule even at weekends.