Routine sleep changes such as having a lie-in at the weekend or waking up early during the week can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, a new study reports.
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh, United States concluded that “social jetlag” can damage metabolic health among non-shift workers. This research echoes a study from earlier this year from the Mammalian Genetics Unit and Medical Research Council, Oxfordshire.
Shift work is associated with an increased risk of diabetes, metabolic syndrome and coronary heart disease due to the adverse effects it can have on eating and sleeping patterns.
447 adults aged 30-54 were analysed, all of whom worked a minimum of 25 hours per week away from their home.
All the participants wore wristbands that measured their sleep and movement 24 hours a day for a week. Questionnaires were used to assess their diet and exercise habits.
Roughly 85 per cent had a later halfway point in their sleep cycle on non-working days compared to work days. Those with a greater misalignment of sleep schedules between working and non-working days were more likely to have poor cholesterol levels, larger waist circumference, higher BMI (body mass index) and be more resistant to insulin.
This association existed even after researchers had adjusted for other confounding variables such as physical activity and calorie intake.
Dr. Patricia Wong, University of Pittsburgh, said: “These metabolic changes can contribute to the development of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. If future studies replicate what we found here, then we may need to consider as a society how modern work and social obligations are affecting our sleep and health.
“There could be benefits to clinical interventions focused on circadian disturbances, workplace education to help employees and their families make informed decisions about structuring their schedules, and policies to encourage employers to consider these issues.”
The findings were published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

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