Sleep offers more than simply keeping you from feeling tired in the morning. A new study from the University of Copenhagen, in collaboration with sleep researchers and epidemiologists in Finland, finds that consistently sleeping well plays an important role in future health. Maintaining good sleep habits—like getting enough sleep—helps people make healthy lifestyle choices. People who sleep well are less likely to smoke or be overweight, and more likely to be active. The study adds to evidence about sleep’s healthful effects.
The study surveyed more than 35,000 adult Finns over more than 10 years. The researchers set strict inclusion criteria for participants. All of the participants had to respond to at least three successive waves of the study. The researchers also structured the cohorts so they could track how a change in sleep patterns affected other lifestyle issues. For example, to asses sleep’s impact on physical activity, they began by tracking a group of active adults with stable sleep patterns. After the first four-year wave of the study, they split the cohort, dividing those with sleep problems from those whose sleep remained stable. Then, they observed whether those with disrupted sleep had a higher risk of becoming inactive than those with persistent, stable sleep habits.
Those who maintained good sleep habits (sleeping a normal duration and without disruptions) found it easier to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Smokers who maintained good sleep habits were less likely to continue smoking and more likely to quit smoking four years later compared to smokers who slept less than average or whose sleep was more frequently disrupted. The results revealed similar patterns for other lifestyle changes like high-risk alcohol consumption, being physically active, or becoming overweight or obese. For each of these lifestyle changes, good sleep was associated with healthier outcomes.
“Better knowledge of the importance of sleep, not just for biological restitution, but also for making healthy lifestyle decisions, may help people make informed decisions about prioritizing how to spend the night—catching up on work emails, surfing social media or going to bed and ensuring a good night’s sleep,” concludes Postdoc Alice Jessie Clark from the Department of Public Health in the University of Copenhagen
This research is published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.
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