Wednesday, 17 April, 2024
HomeEditor's Pick‘Social jetlag’, irregular sleep, upset gut bacteria – UK study

‘Social jetlag’, irregular sleep, upset gut bacteria – UK study

British scientists have suggested that going to bed at roughly the same time every night could help reduce the risk of disease, after their research showed even small differences in sleeping habits could lead to unhealthy changes in our gut bacteria.

Heavily-disrupted sleep, particularly shift work, is known to have a negative impact on health, and the study of nearly 1 000 adults by the Kings College London scientists found that even a 90-minute difference in the midpoint of your night's sleep over the course of a normal week could influence the types of bacteria found in the human gut.

Having a wide range of different species of bacteria in your digestive system is really important. Some are better than others, but getting the right mix is key to preventing a number of diseases.

Going to sleep and waking up at very different times during the week, compared with the weekend, is known as “social jetlag”, and this could encourage microbiota species that have unfavourable associations with your health, according to Kate Bermingham, study author and senior nutrition scientist at health science company Zoe.

It is thought that this condition affects more than 40% of the UK population, the study says, and is most common in teenagers and young adults, but then tapers off as we age, reports BBC News.

Participants in this study, publishes in the European Journal of Nutrition, had their sleep and blood analysed, stool samples collected and recorded everything they ate in a food questionnaire.

Those who had social jetlag (16%) were more likely to eat a diet laden with potatoes, including crisps and chips, plus sugary drinks, and less fruit and nuts.

Previous research showed people with social jetlag ate less fibre than those with more consistent sleeping times. Other studies found social jetlag was linked to weight gain, illness and mental fatigue.

“Poor quality sleep affects choices – and people crave higher carb or sugary foods,” says Bermingham.

An unhealthy diet can then affect levels of specific bacteria in the gut.

The researchers found that three out of the six microbiota species which were more plentiful in the guts of the social jetlag group are linked to poor diet quality, obesity and higher levels of inflammation and stroke risk.

The relationship between sleep, diet and gut bacteria is complicated and there is still a lot more to find out, the research team said.

“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 affect our health via our gut microbiome for the better,” said Dr Sarah Berry, from King’s College London.


BBC News article – Why you should go to sleep at the same time all week (Open access)


See more from MedicalBrief archives:


The key to easier menopause lies in your gut, say experts


Losing sleep increases obesity risk


Not enough night-time sleep linked to clogged arteries – Swedish study


Healthy sleep habits linked to 42% lower risk of heart failure —UK Biobank data









MedicalBrief — our free weekly e-newsletter

We'd appreciate as much information as possible, however only an email address is required.