The secret to a great night's sleep

A morning in bed may seem like the perfect start to your weekend, but a Saturday morning lie-in could be bad for your health according to a new study by the Medical Research Council.

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New research warns that the difference in sleep patterns between work days and days off raises the risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

The study involved analysing the sleeping habits, weight and height of 800 men and women aged 38. There was a particular focus on 'social jet lag', which is the difference between waking hours during the week compared to the weekend or days off. The results show that those who were socially jet-lagged were more likely to be obese or develop diabetes. Therefore, if you are used to getting up at 7am on a work day, but regularly sleep in until 9am on a day off, you are are increasing your risk of health issues as just a two hour difference in sleep patterns was enough to be problematic. 

The reasons behind the increase in health risks are not entirely clear, but one possibility is that changes in sleep patterns could affect our appetite hormones and activate our genes that process fats and sugars correctly, at the wrong time of day. An effective way to combat 'social jet lag' is to start thinking twice about snacking and ditching the sugary or fatty foods during your work day. 

The lead study author Michael Parsons concludes, "Unlike jet lag from travelling, social jet lag is more likely to trigger health problems because it occurs regularly. I don't want to tell people not to have a lie-in because I enjoy one myself." It's not all bad news, lazing in bed occasionally will not cause you any harm, so don't be put off treating yourself every once in a while!

For helpful sleep tips visit Dr Nerina's Sleep Toolkit.


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