The sleep hack that REALLY works – and will help you live longer

SLEEP is one of those things that everyone says they should get more of, but fail to do so.

Experts say there is one sleep hack that trumps them all and could help you live a longer life.

It could protect you from a host of diseases that are known to strike those with sleep deprivation. 

To find out more about sleep, researchers at the health science company ZOE recruited almost 1,000 healthy volunteers.

Their sleep and meals were tracked for two weeks while they wore blood glucose and movement monitors.

The scientists compared their blood sugar responses to meals with their sleep duration, sleep quality, and what time they went to bed and woke up.

Their key finding was that having an early night was the most important for health, above a longer duration of sleep.

It was shown to be better for metabolic health –  a set of indicators that reveal how healthy you are now, as well as how likely you are to develop serious chronic conditions later in life. 

Participants who went to bed later tended to have worse blood sugar responses to breakfast the following day, even if they woke up late and regardless of what they ate.

In comparison, people who got the same amount of hours sleep per night but went to bed earlier in the evening had the best response to food.

Unhealthy blood sugar responses after eating have been linked to an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes or heart disease over time.

Day-to-day, it could see you piling on weight by driving you towards unhealthy snacks. 

Tim Spector, scientific co-founder of ZOE and professor of genetic epidemiology at KCL, said: “As with diet, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to recommend our precise hours of sleep. 

“But, now we can confirm there is a recommended approach to when and how we sleep.”

Other sleep failures that damaged blood sugar control were a disrupted night sleep and an irregular sleep routine.

Experts on the study warned against so-called “social jetlag” – when someone tries to catch up with their lost sleep in the week with lie-ins at the weekend.

This has been linked with poorer health, worse mood, and increased sleepiness and fatigue.

Lead researcher on the study, Professor Paul Franks from Lund University in Sweden, said: “For most people, both sleep duration and timing are modifiable factors, so being sleep-deprived, or having a disrupted sleep schedule is up to us to change.

“Borrowing from your awake time and racking up sleep loans are never made without incurring interest. 

“Even just one night affects the way our bodies metabolise food and how well blood sugar levels are controlled.”

Dr Sarah Berry, reader in nutritional sciences in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at King's College, said: “Sleep is a key pillar of health alongside diet, physical activity and mental health.

“Yet, one in three people don’t get enough sleep. 

“People who don’t get enough sleep have a 40 per cent higher risk of being obese and are at much higher risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. 

“These same people tend to eat more calories, choose unhealthy snacks, have less variety in their diet and have a poor diet quality with lower fiber and fruit and vegetable intake. 

“In short, our study shows that sleep should get more attention.”

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