Regularity is key (Picture: Getty Images/Metro.co.uk)
It’s not just what you do, but the way that you do it – and that applies to your sleep, too.
While we might all be prioritising getting more sleep (which is a good thing, to be clear), it could be just as important to ensure you have a regular sleep schedule.
Having an irregular sleep routine – meaning you sometimes stay up late or lie in at the weekends – is linked with a greater risk of depression long-term, says a new study from researchers at the University of Michigan.
Don’t think you can just ignore the effects of sleeping whenever you fancy because they’re in the distant future.
The study also found that an irregular sleep schedule has short-term effects, too, in the form of poor mood the next day.
Researchers assessed 2,115 doctors who were all in the first year of residency training after medical school.
Participants were analysed in two weeks before the study and then for one year during their residency, when they had long, intense work days and irregular work schedules, such as night shifts and early starts.
Throughout the study, sleep was evaluated through a wearable tracking device, while participants had to complete a nine-item questionnaire to assess their mood.
The researchers found that while, yes, reduced overall sleep time raised the likelihood of depression and low mood, so did increased variability (meaning irregular sleep schedules) in sleep time – to around the same degree.
The medical students whose sleeping schedule changed throughout the week the most were more likely to score higher on the depression questionnaires and to have lower daily mood ratings.
‘Interventions that target sleep consistency, along with sleep duration, hold promise to improve mental health,’ said the study’s authors.
It’s not a simple as declaring depression can be fixed by sleeping more regularly, of course.
If you are struggling with persistent low mood or sleep issues, it’s vital you talk to a medical professional to get appropriate help.
What the study does suggest, however, is that there could be a wellbeing benefit to having a regular bedtime and wakeup-time, and that having a wildly irregular sleep schedule could be to your detriment.
If you can implement a proper sleep routine – that means going to bed and waking up at around the same time every evening and morning, and not trying to ‘catch up’ on sleep at the weekends – it’s definitely worth trying.
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