Going to sleep even a few minutes past your normal bedtime could be bad for you

You really should stick to a regular bedtime.

Just straying from your set bedtime by a few minutes could increase your risk of heart disease, a new study suggests, highlighting just how important it is to go to bed and wake up at the same times each day.

Researchers looked at the relationship between regular sleep patterns and resting heart rate, which is a factor in your likelihood of developing heart disease.

They collected data from Fitbit devices worn by 557 university students over the course of four years, measuring bedtimes, sleep, and resting heart rates over 255,736 sleep sessions.

A normal bedtime was defined as a one-hour interval during which time each person usually fell asleep, such as 9-10pm.

Researchers found that those who went to bed even one minute outside their usual bedtime window had an increased resting heart rate that night and into the following day.

That’s not just the case for staying up late, though – even going to bed earlier than normal had a negative cardiovascular effect, although this was only the case when going to bed more than half an hour earlier than usual.

Just going to sleep between one and thirty minutes outside your normal bedtime can cause damage, the research says.

The study’s authors concluded that sticking to a regular bedtime is best for your heart.

Study lead author Dr Nitesh Chawla, from the University of Notre Dame, said: ‘We already know an increase in resting heart rate means an increased risk to cardiovascular health.

‘Through our study, we found that even if you get seven hours of sleep a night, if you’re not going to bed at the same time each night, not only does your resting heart rate increase while you sleep, it carries over into the next day.’

He added that medications, lifestyle factors and circadian rhythms – our internal biological clock – all come into play when it comes to healthy sleep habits but it is vital to consider consistency as well.

Dr Chawla recommends going to bed at the same time at the weekend as during the working week.

He said: ‘For some, it may be a matter of maintaining their regular ‘work week’ bedtime through the weekend.

‘For shift workers and those who travel frequently, getting to bed at the same time each night is a challenge.

‘Establishing a healthy bedtime routine – as best you can – is obviously step number one. But sticking to it is just as important.’

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