Falling Asleep at 10pm Is Linked to a Lower Risk of Heart Disease, Large Study Finds

·2-min read

Eschewing the lure of Netflix for an early night won't just give your productivity a boost the next day. If the latest research is anything to go by, it'll also protect your ticker.

Catching ZZZs between the hours of 10pm and 11pm is associated with a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease compared with falling asleep earlier or later at night, according to the results of a large-scale study published in the European Heart Journal - Digital Health.

Using data from wrist-based devices worn by more than 88,000 participants aged 43 to 79 for seven days, the scientists monitored three measures of sleep – duration, irregularity, and timing – to determine whether there was any association between heart disease and their typical bedtime.

During the follow-up period of 5.7 years, 3,172 of those participants developed heart disease, of which 43 per cent typically fell asleep after midnight, and approximately 38 per cent usually dozed off 11pm and 11.59pm. The rate of heart disease was lowest when participants headed to bed between 10pm and 10.59pm.

Correlation isn't causation, of course. The study isn't definitive proof that a post-midnight bedtime contributed to the development of heart disease. It could be that health conditions or behaviours linked to late bedtimes – drinking alcohol, for example – are responsible for the increased risk. Such are the limits of an observational study. (continued below)

However, study co-author Dr David Plans, senior lecturer at the University of Exeter, told The Guardian it's possible that missing important cues such as morning daylight, which help to reset the body's internal clock, play a crucial role.

"That misalignment of behaviours and the circadian clock increases inflammation and can impair glucose regulation, both of which can increase risk of cardiovascular disease," he said. "Because we also adjusted for all of the other more common cardiovascular risk factors, it’s clear that this association is significant in some way."

While further research is needed, he said, one thing is clear: sleep hygiene – habits that help with a good night's kip – really does matter. "People often assume that cardiovascular disease is a consequence of physiological influences. Whereas actually, the behavioural influence on the cardiovascular system as a result of circadian disruption is enormous."

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