Do You Sleep in on the Weekends? A New Study Finds That May Be Impacting Your Gut Health

Do You Sleep in on the Weekends? A New Study Finds That May Be Impacting Your Gut Health

Setting an alarm for work in the morning can be a bit of a pain, which often leads us to sleep in on the weekend. The term for these different sleep schedules is social jet lag. While it may be common, there are health risks associated with it, including circadian rhythm disorders, less healthy eating patterns, metabolic issues, and even behavioral problems in teenagers. A new study has tacked on another health risk.

Research recently published in The European Journal of Nutrition took a look at the link between social jet lag and gut microbiome composition, diet, and cardiometabolic health. The team found that even a 90-minute difference in sleep schedules between the work week and days off was associated with changes to the gut microbiome. As such disruptions to the gut are linked with conditions including irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes, this can have serious impacts to people’s health.

Dr. Wendy Hall, senior author from King’s College London’s School of Life Course & Population Sciences, explains, “We know that major disruptions in sleep, such as shift work, can have a profound impact on your health. This is the first study to show that even small differences in sleep timings across the week seems to be linked to differences in gut bacterial species. Some of these associations were linked to dietary differences but our data also indicates that other, as yet unknown, factors may be involved. We need intervention trials to find out whether improving sleep time consistency can lead to beneficial changes in the gut microbiome and related health outcomes.”

The study involved 934 people from the ongoing ZOE PREDICT nutritional study. Most were lean and healthy and getting more than seven hours of sleep per night. Participants had their blood, stool, gut microbiome, and glucose levels measured.

When researchers looked at the samples of those who maintained the same sleep schedule and those who had social jet lag, they found that a midpoint sleep difference of just 90 minutes was linked with differences in the gut microbiome. There were six types of microbiota with higher levels in the social jet lag group, three of which are associated with poor health outcomes including poor diet quality, obesity and cardiometabolic health, and blood markers linked with inflammation and cardiovascular risk.

People with irregular sleep patterns were also more apt to have lower diet quality, higher intake of sugary drinks, and lower intake of fruits and nuts, though, which may also have played a role in their gut microbiome composition.

The researchers say sleep is important to health, and their findings show inconsistent sleep may be impactful, too.

Dr. Sarah Berry from King’s College London and chief scientist at ZOE says, “Maintaining regular sleep patterns, so when we go to bed and when we wake each day, is an easily adjustable lifestyle behaviour we can all do, that may impact your health via your gut microbiome for the better.”

Gut health changes may also be associated with Alzheimer’s. You can read more about that here.

Michelle Milliken

Michelle has a journalism degree and has spent more than seven years working in broadcast news. She's also been known to write some silly stuff for humor websites. When she's not writing, she's probably getting lost in nature, with a fully-stocked backpack, of course.

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