Going to sleep just a few minutes past your usual bedtime could be bad for you, researchers find

It could increase risk of heart disease. (Getty Images)
It could increase risk of heart disease. (Getty Images)

Sticking to a regular bedtime could be very important for our physical wellbeing, scientists have found.

It’s long been thought that a bedtime routine helps our mental health, but now scientists are saying that diverting from our usual bedtime by even a few minutes could increase our risk of heart disease.

Researchers looked at Fitbit data over the course of four years, which included bedtimes, sleep, and resting heart rates for over 255,736 sleep sessions.

They were looking at the relationship between sleep patterns and our resting heart rates, which factors into our risk of developing heart disease.

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A “normal bedtime” is defined as somebody who falls asleep within one hour each night. For example, if somebody was to fall asleep between 10-11pm each night, this would be seen as a routine.

Scientists found that going to sleep just one minute outside of your usual sleep window increased resting heart rate for that person all night and into the next day.

The same could be found for people who went to bed earlier than usual on any given night.

Going to bed more than half an hour earlier than usual has the same negative impact on a person’s heart rate.

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The University of Notre Dame, which conducted the study, found that the best thing to do for your heart health was to find a bedtime that suited you and then stick to it.

“We already know an increase in resting heart rate means an increased risk to cardiovascular health.” Study lead author, Dr Nitesh Chawla, explained.

“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 notes that it’s not just sleep consistency that plays a role in whether or not we have a good night sleep, but it’s a good place to start.

Other factors might include; medication, lifestyle factors and our internal biological clock.

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It becomes tricky for people to keep up this sleep routine during the weekends when plans might encourage people to go to sleep later than during the weekdays.

Despite this, Dr Chawla encourages us to stick to that pattern even at the weekends.

“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.”