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Irregular sleep schedules hurt mental health and wellness, study finds

Researchers are highlighting the importance of finding consistency

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Photo (c) yasinemir - Getty Images
Getting quality sleep each night can be challenging for many consumers. Unfortunately, poor sleep can affect both physical and mental health --even from a very young age

In a recent study conducted by researchers from Michigan Medicine, wearable devices and smartphone apps were used to track the effect that sleep had on mental health. They learned that consumers who don’t maintain consistent sleeping patterns are more likely to struggle with depression and have generally worse moods

“These findings highlight sleep consistency as an underappreciated factor to target in depression and wellness,” said researcher Dr. Srijan Sen. “The work also underscores the potential of wearable devices in understanding important constructs relevant to health that we previously could not study at scale.” 

Changes in sleeping and waking time disturb mental health

The researchers had over 2,100 early-career doctors wear sleep trackers and use a smartphone app each morning to record their overall mood for one year. Their mental health was evaluated every few months using a popular assessment that gauges depression. 

The researchers found a direct correlation between participants who had the greatest inconsistencies in their sleeping habits and those who were at the greatest risk of depression and poor moods. 

While this demographic of participants was particularly susceptible to a demanding work schedule and varying sleep routines, the study showed that their mental health suffered when they went to bed or woke up at different times each day. Simply not getting enough sleep or going to bed late also contributed to poorer mental health and wellness outcomes. 

On the other hand, the researchers noted some factors that led to improved mental health among the participants. Sleeping longer each night, going to bed earlier, and having fewer changes to time spent sleeping were all associated with better moods in the morning and long-term. 

Though these findings focus on one specific group, the researchers hope that all consumers recognize the important connection that exists between sleeping habits and mental health and wellness. Working to create a stable and consistent sleep routine can be a great benefit for consumers. 

“The advanced wearable technology allows us to study the behavioral and psychological factors of mental health, including sleep, at a much larger scale and more accurately than before, opening up an exciting field for us to explore,” said researcher Yu Fang. “Our findings aim not only to guide self-management on sleep habits, but also to inform institutional scheduling structures.” 

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