3 Healthy Behaviors That Can Affect Your Sleep, According To Science
The sleep-wake cycle of your body is encoded deep in your cells. Each one of your cells has a circadian rhythm, the pattern of activity that regulates the body’s metabolism, and that’s what makes your body feel awake or sleepy at particular times of day. Science is still uncovering new science about circadian rhythms; we know, for instance, that things like jet lag and shift work disrupt your body’s circadian rhythm, because you’re getting contradictory and confusing signals about when to sleep. Those are behaviors that are usually seen as unhealthy, though sometimes unavoidable, but it turns out that even some so-called healthy behaviors can affect your sleep by messing with your body’s internal clock.
Disrupted circadian rhythms can do quite a lot of damage to your health as a whole, not just your sleep. Studies have linked them to higher risks of anxiety disorders, for instance — and in 2018, scientists found that a gene that regulates circadian rhythms in women can have a strong effect on some breast cancers, which might mean that night shifts and other things that mess with your body clock could increase breast cancer risk. Your sleep-wake cycle is important to more than just your rest — though when you’re awake at 2 a.m. it likely seems like the most important thing in the world. Here are three “healthy” activities you probably do that are sneakily messing with your body’s clock.
1. Being ‘Good’ All Week And Sleeping In On The Weekend
Many of us feel that if we “behave” all week and get up and go to sleep at the same time, we’ve earned some disruption at the weekend: late night parties, evening gym classes, long, luxuries lie-ins. Unfortunately, your body’s circadian rhythm thrives with regularity, even on weekends, and even these relaxing habits may be making people more sleepy and circadian rhythms more disordered.
Norwegian and Swedish sleep researchers noted in 2016 that sleep rhythms need to be maintained throughout the week to keep you at your healthiest. Susanna Jernelöv of the Karolinska Institute said, “When you sleep in later, it’s like giving yourself a bit of jet-lag and jet-lag makes you less bright and perky.” They were echoing findings from Australian scientists in 2008, but the idea that sleeping in on the weekends is good self-care remains pretty widespread. “Catching up” on sleep may not actually be a thing.