Going to bed between 10 and 11pm 'could lower your risk of heart disease'

We’ve all been there – desperately trying to catch up on sleep by hitting the snooze button after yet another late night.

But while we can lie-in all we want at the weekend and hope that resolves all our rubbish sleep habits, a new study suggests the time we go to bed really is important.

In fact, a bedtime that’s too early or too late could have a negative impact; namely, increasing your risk of heart disease.

So when’s the snooze time that’s just right?

According to the study, conducted by the University of Exeter, going to sleep between 10pm and 11pm is the sweet spot to have a lower risk of developing heart disease.

Drifting off at midnight or later is associated with a 25% higher risk of cardiovascular disease, while there’s a 12% greater risk among those who fall asleep before 10pm.

The research included 88,026 people in the UK Biobank study, recruited between 2006 and 2010.

The average age was 61 years, with a range between 43 to 79 years, and 58% were women.

Using a tracker device worn on the wrist, scientists were able to collect data on the time people slept and woke up over the course of seven days.

These participants were also asked to complete questionnaires about their general health and lifestyles.

They were then followed up for a new diagnosis of cardiovascular disease, which was defined as a heart attack, heart failure, chronic ischaemic heart disease, stroke, and transient ischaemic attack, over the course of 5.7 years on average.

During this time, 3,172 participants developed cardiovascular disease, and the incidence was highest in those with sleep times at midnight or later, and lowest in those going to sleep between 10pm and 10.59pm.

Study author Dr David Plans, of the University of Exeter, said: ‘The body has a 24-hour internal clock, called circadian rhythm, that helps regulate physical and mental functioning.

‘While we cannot conclude causation from our study, the results suggest that early or late bedtimes may be more likely to disrupt the body clock, with adverse consequences for cardiovascular health.

‘Our study indicates that the optimum time to go to sleep is at a specific point in the body’s 24-hour cycle and deviations may be detrimental to health.

‘The riskiest time was after midnight, potentially because it may reduce the likelihood of seeing morning light, which resets the body clock.’

Interestingly, the research found a stronger association between bedtime and cardiovascular disease among women.

Dr Plans said: ‘It may be that there is a sex difference in how the endocrine system responds to a disruption in circadian rhythm.

‘Alternatively, the older age of study participants could be a confounding factor since women’s cardiovascular risk increases post-menopause – meaning there may be no difference in the strength of the association between women and men.’

While more research is needed to establish a solid cause and effect relationship, what we can take from this study is a reminder to give ourselves a proper bedtime – before the midnight hour.

Regina Giblin, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: ‘This large study suggests that going to sleep between 10 and 11pm could be the sweet spot for most people to keep their heart healthy long-term.

‘However, it’s important to remember that this study can only show an association and can’t prove cause and effect.

‘More research is needed into sleep timing and duration as a risk factor for heart and circulatory diseases.

‘Getting enough sleep is important for our general wellbeing as well as our heart and circulatory health, and most adults should aim for seven to nine hours of sleep per night.’

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