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Crazy Sleep Patterns Linked to a High BMI? It's Possible, Says Latest Study

Once again, the importance of sleep comes at us, demonstrating that pulling all-nighters in the office, being praised for getting by on little sleep, and yawning our way through life simply isn't healthy.
02/09/2016 08:14am ET | Updated February 9, 2017
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Pacific Islander businesswoman yawning at desk

A study published in the February issue of the journal Sleep once again reinforces the need for obtaining the proper amount of sleep -- not just occasionally, but nightly. The study -- said to be the first of its kind -- maintains that women whose sleep cycles are irregular are prone to metabolic health challenges, including higher insulin resistance and a higher body mass index (BMI).

The study involved a cross-section of Caucasian, African American, and Chinese women, all of whom participated in the Study of Women's Health Across the Nation (SWAN) Sleep Study. Just over five years later, the women were assessed, including a review of their daily diary-reported bedtimes which was used to delve into four key areas: mean bedtime, bedtime variability, bedtime delay and bedtime advance.

The results, according to the study's abstract, is that, "Frequent shifts in sleep timing may be related to metabolic health among non-shift working midlife women."

Once again, the importance of sleep comes at us, demonstrating that pulling all-nighters in the office, being praised for getting by on little sleep, and yawning our way through life simply isn't healthy.

According to American Academy of Sleep Medicine President Dr. Nathaniel Watson, "This study emphasizes the important health benefits of keeping a regular sleep schedule." Watson, who wasn't involved with the study, also said, "In addition to sleeping 7 or more hours per night on a regular basis, adults should strive to maintain a consistent schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same times on weekdays and weekends."

Consistency when it comes to sleep, therefore, is key.

However, in today's world, where many workplaces and home environments often hold tight to a "who needs sleep?" approach to life, getting decent amounts of sleep can be difficult to achieve.

For example, after working at a job several years ago where I received eight hours of sleep in one week (one week!) during an extensive work project, I started to observe that such a frantic, sleepless pace was the norm there. So, I quit my job to save my sanity, setting out on a mission to find the ideal work-life balance.

It hasn't come easy.

After quitting that job, I worked at several other places. With the exception of a few experiences, the overall workplace success message was: sleep? Who needs sleep? Work though lunch, "power through" back-to-back meetings, and then work into the late-night hours to make up for the work that couldn't get done because of those four consecutive boardroom sessions.

But dare say you're heading home for the day any earlier than 7:00, and you might as well start talking about how maybe, just maybe, you come from another planet. No one wants to hear it, and so people routinely come to work with bags under their eyes, nodding off in the middle of meetings.

Is this what success looks like? Is this the kind of wellness and care we deserve?

No.

That's why it's up to us to take it back, to reclaim the basic human need for sleep and all the benefits it provides. We shouldn't be afraid to leave work before 7:00 for fear we might get fired for not being a team player. Nor should we feel embarrassed for going to bed early at home, or declaring to family members that we're going to do our best to establish a sleep routine -- and stick to it.

Our bedroom is a haven that helps us become more productive personally and professionally, allows us to fend off colds and other ailments, and lets us recharge and restore our often-harried souls.

Success isn't just about climbing the corporate ladder. It's also about climbing under the bedroom comforter -- unapologetically and routinely.