A new study conducted by scientists from Kings College London suggests that small differences in sleeping habits between work and rest days could have negative effects on the bacteria in our guts. The study found that even a 90-minute difference in the midpoint of one's night's sleep over the course of a normal week could influence the types of bacteria found in the human gut. Having a diverse range of bacteria in the digestive system is important for maintaining good health and preventing diseases.
The study also found that people with "social jetlag," who have inconsistent sleep patterns throughout the week compared to the weekend, were more likely to have poorer diets. Social jetlag is believed to affect over 40% of the UK population and is most prevalent in teenagers and young adults. Participants in the study who had social jetlag were more likely to consume diets high in potatoes, sugary drinks, and low in fruits and nuts. Previous research has shown that social jetlag is linked to weight gain, illness, and mental fatigue.
The study further revealed that the social jetlag group had higher levels of certain bacteria in their guts that are associated with poor diet quality, obesity, inflammation, and stroke risk. However, the relationship between sleep, diet, and gut bacteria is complex, and there is still much to learn.
The researchers recommend maintaining regular sleep patterns as an easily adjustable lifestyle behavior that can positively impact one's health through their gut microbiome. This advice aligns with the NHS's recommendations for a healthy diet, which include consuming a variety of fruits and vegetables, basing meals on higher-fiber starchy foods, incorporating protein sources such as beans, pulses, fish, eggs, and meat, choosing unsaturated oils and spreads, and staying hydrated.
While there is still more research to be done on the connection between sleep, diet, and gut bacteria, this study highlights the potential impact of small differences in sleeping habits on our overall health. By prioritizing consistent sleep patterns and maintaining a balanced diet, individuals may be able to reduce their risk of disease and promote a healthier gut microbiome.