Study: Good night's sleep offers long-term health benefits

"When sleep deteriorates, we are more likely to make unhealthy lifestyle changes," said one researcher involved with the study.

By Stephen Feller

COPENHAGEN, Denmark, June 16 (UPI) -- Good sleep habits make it easier to maintain healthy lifestyle habits, especially when it comes to smoking, drinking and physical activity, according to a new study.

The research followed 37,508 adult Finns who participated in at least three successive 4-year waves of a longitudinal cohort study, allowing researchers to see how sleep habits affected their bodies over a longer period of time.


"This study shows that sleep affects our ability to maintain a healthy lifestyle, and when sleep deteriorates we are more likely to make unhealthy lifestyle changes," said Alice Jessie Clark, of the Department of Public Health at the University of Copenhagen, in a press release. "Better knowledge of the importance of sleep, not just for biological restitution, but also for making healthy lifestyle decisions, may help people make informed decisions about prioritizing how to spend the night – catching up on work emails, surfing social media or going to bed and ensuring a good night's sleep."

The study looked at undisturbed sleepers for four years, continuing to follow participants after the onset of disturbed sleep. Researchers observed a pattern whereby the initially physically active reduced physical activity after the onset of sleep disturbance, and non-risk consumers of alcohol engaged in more high-risk drinking after the onset of sleep disturbance. Researchers note that those with better sleep habits were more likely to quit smoking (if they were a smoker initially), had lower incidence of high-risk alcohol consumption, were more physically active, and had a lower chance of becoming overweight or obese.


Researchers then followed the group of inactive sleepers for an additional four years to determine if people whose sleep disturbances got worse over time also were at even greater risk for physical inactivity and obesity, finding overall that quality of sleep affected the risk of engaging in unhealthy habits.

The study is published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.

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