Early bedtime may prevent serious disease

Written by | 4 Dec 2021 | Medicines and Therapeutics

A new study from the ZOE research group shows that the quality of sleep can impact blood sugar control and therefore weight and overall health. 1

Sleep, diet and exercise are fundamental to metabolic homeostasis.  A previous study of over 88,000 people found that an individual’s bedtime is linked to the risk of heart disease.2 The research — using data from the UK Biobank study — showed that people who regularly go to bed after 11 p.m. have a 12% higher risk of cardiovascular disease than those who go to bed between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m.  Night owls, who usually go to bed after midnight, have a 25% higher risk.

This study included 953 people without any health conditions, who took part in the PREDICT 1 clinical trial.3 Sleep quality was assessed using sensitive sleep trackers rather than relying on self-reported sleep quality.

The key findings were that quality of sleep and sleep onset (bedtime relative to the norm for the individual) both influence the ability to control blood sugar. Specifically, participants who slept well were generally able to avoid big blood sugar spikes after breakfast the following day whereas participants who didn’t sleep well, experienced big spikes in blood sugar after breakfast, particularly if they opted for sugary foods. Unhealthy blood sugar responses can add up over time and may be one of the factors that contribute to the increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

The researchers advise avoiding refined cereals, white bread, toast, croissants, and energy drinks after a bad night’s sleep.  A better option would be to choose foods that are higher in protein and healthy fats, like eggs and sourdough with avocado, rather than refined carbohydrates.

They emphasise that whereas diet and exercise regimes can sometimes be hard to follow, but good sleep hygiene (avoiding caffeine after lunch, sleeping in a quiet, dark, cool room) may be easier to achieve and could deliver significant health benefits.


  1. Tsereteli, N., Vallat, R., Fernandez-Tajes, J. et al.Impact of insufficient sleep on dysregulated blood glucose control under standardised meal conditions. Diabetologia (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00125-021-05608-y
  2. Shahram Nikbakhtian, Angus B Reed, Bernard Dillon Obika, Davide Morelli, Adam C Cunningham, Mert Aral, David Plans, Accelerometer-derived sleep onset timing and cardiovascular disease incidence: a UK Biobank cohort study, European Heart Journal – Digital Health, 2021;, ztab088, https://doi.org/10.1093/ehjdh/ztab088
  3. Berry, S.E., Valdes, A.M., Drew, D.A. et al.Human postprandial responses to food and potential for precision nutrition. Nat Med 26, 964–973 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41591-020-0934-0
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