Don’t sleep on your health — getting extra shut-eye on the weekends could be wreaking havoc on your gut, a new study says.
Researchers from King’s College London found a link between “social jet lag” — a disruption of the body’s internal clock caused by an irregular sleep schedule — and negative health consequences.
The study of nearly 1,000 adults, published Wednesday in the European Journal of Nutrition, analyzed participants’ blood, stool and gut microbiome, comparing those who maintained a regular sleep schedule and those who did not.
The team of researchers discovered that even a meager 90-minute difference in timing of the midpoint of sleep impacted gut microbiome composition.
“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,” senior author Dr. Wendy Hall, from the School of Life Course & Population Sciences, said in a statement.
“Some of these associations were linked to dietary differences but our data also indicates that other, as yet unknown, factors may be involved,” she continued, suggesting that more research is necessary to determine if improvements in circadian rhythm would have positive microbiome outcomes.
Experiencing “social jet lag” was linked to lower diet quality — less fruits, vegetables and nuts, and more sugary drinks — which can impact the gut microbiome.
Three of the six microorganisms found in the guts of the socially jet-lagged are associated with “unfavorable” health outcomes, such as indicators for obesity, inflammation and cardiovascular risk.
“Maintaining regular sleep patterns, so when we go to bed and when we wake each day, is an easily adjustable lifestyle behavior we can all do, that may impact your health via your gut microbiome for the better,” said Dr. Sarah Berry, a chief scientist at health science company Zoe.
The research is part of the Zoe Predict study, which is hailed as “the largest ongoing nutritional study of its kind.”
“Sleep is a key pillar of health, and this research is particularly timely given the growing interest in circadian rhythms and the gut microbiome,” said study author Kate Bermingham, a senior nutrition scientist at Zoe.
Past studies have suggested that too much or too little sleep could yield negative health outcomes.
Regularly sleeping more than 9 hours per night raises the risk of stroke, one report found, while another claimed that lengthy naps were correlated with higher blood pressure, body mass index and waist size.
In January, researchers from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health released a report analyzing the effects of sleep quality on heart health.
They found that better sleep had the potential to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease.