Early Birds vs Night Owls: For People With Diabetes, an Early Bedtime Is Best

Early Bird Concept

Early to bed, early to rise…while the old saying promises health, wealth and wisdom, new research confirms part of the adage holds true, as a world first study shows that people who go to bed early are more likely to be in better health and more physically active compared to night owls.

Conducted by the University of Leicester and the University of South Australia, the study assessed the bedtime preferences (sleep chronotypes) of people with type 2 diabetes, identifying a connection between bedtimes and healthy, active lifestyles.

It found that night owls (people who went to late and got up late, or ‘evening chronotypes’) have an excessively sedentary lifestyle characterized by low levels and low intensities of physical activity – and that this is putting their health at greater risk.

Type 2 diabetes is largely the result of excess body weight and physical inactivity. Globally 463 million people – or one in 11 adults have diabetes – a statistic that is expected to rise to 700 million by 2040.

Concerningly, 1.9 billion adults are overweight, with 650 million of these are obese.

As the global prevalence of type 2 diabetes and obesity continue to rise, finding ways to negate these health issues is critical.

Lead researcher, Dr. Joseph Henson from the University of Leicester says understanding how people’s sleep time preferences can impact their level of physical activity, could help people with type 2 diabetes better manage their health.

“There is a massive need for large-scale interventions to help people with diabetes initiate, maintain and achieve the benefits of an active lifestyle,” Dr. Henson says.

“For people who prefer to go to bed later and get up later, this is even more important, with our research showing that night owls exercise 56 percent less than their early bird counterparts.

“Exercise plays an important role for people with diabetes, helping maintain a healthy weight and blood pressure, as well as reducing the risk of heart disease – all significant factors for improving diabetes management.

“This makes understanding the factors that can mitigate a person’s propensity to exercise, extremely important.”

Published in BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care, the study examined 635 patients with type 2 diabetes, each wearing an accelerometer for seven days to record the intensity and time of different physical behaviors: sleep, rest, overall physical activity.

The study found 25 percent of participants had morning chronotypes (a preference to go to be early and get up early, with an average bedtime of 22:52); 23 percent had evening chronotypes (a preference to go to bed late and get up late, with an average bedtime of 00:36); and 52 percent said they had neither.

UniSA’s Dr. Alex Rowlands says the study provides a unique insight into behaviors of people with type 2 diabetes.

“The links between later sleep times and physical activity is clear: go to bed late and you’re less likely to be active,” Dr. Rowlands says.

“As sleep chronotypes are potentially modifiable, these findings provide an opportunity to change your lifestyle for the better, simply by adjusting your bedtime.”

“For someone with diabetes, this is valuable information that could help get them back on a path to good health.”

Reference: “Physical behaviors and chronotype in people with type 2 diabetes” by Joseph Henson, Alex V Rowlands, Emma Baldry, Emer M Brady, Melanie J Davies, Charlotte L Edwardson, Thomas Yates, Andrew P Hall and CODEC Investigators, 16 July 2020, BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care.
DOI: 10.1136/bmjdrc-2020-001375

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