Staying Up Late On The Weekends May Harm Gut Health, New Study Shows
We can live very different lives during the same week. A weekday version of you may go to a 9-to-5 office job, hit up a yoga class after work, and be tucked into bed at a reasonable hour (so you can do it all again tomorrow). Whereas weekends you may have a more sporadic schedule filled with social events that keep you up late.
Here's what they found and what you should know before this upcoming weekend.
How the study was set up
Researchers out of King's College London used a survey to collect information about sleep from 934 healthy (primarily white) adults. Questions such as "What time do you usually go to bed?" and "What time do you usually wake up?" were captured for both weekend days (Friday-Saturday) and weekdays (Sunday-Thursday).
Past studies show that altered sleep patterns by night-shift work also disrupt healthy gut function3. And while that's obviously a much larger change in sleep and wake times than a late Friday night dinner affecting your bedtime, it's still possible that seemingly small sleep changes can affect health.
So stool samples (to measure gut microbe species), blood samples, and dietary intake were also captured as part of this study to help evaluate whether social jet lag affected the gut microbiome and overall dietary patterns.
Yes, social jet lag can impact the gut microbiome
Although only 16% of people in this study met the criteria for social jet lag, there were noticeable differences between the gut microbiomes of both groups. And those in the social jet lag group had a higher prevalence of three unfavorable microbial species.
However, late nights are also often accompanied by other not-so-desirable habits. And those in the social jet lag group had a poorer diet quality (eating higher-calorie foods and less fiber, fruits, and vegetables). And surprisingly, eating nuts helped counter some of the negative changes to the gut microbiome. Information on alcohol intake was also collected, but even after it was accounted for, it didn't change any of the study's findings.
The study was not able to parse out whether the changes were directly tied to those dietary differences or other factors like sleep. Likely more studies will stem from this one to investigate how normalizing sleep patterns lead to (seemingly positive) changes in gut bacteria.
Changes in sleep patterns on the weekends—even if they don't feel drastic—can negatively influence your food choices and your gut microbiome. Keeping a consistent sleep schedule is one of the best ways to optimize your overall health (check out this list for our favorite sleep aids). And even if your sleep is slightly off on the weekend, still prioritize healthy eating habits.
Molly Knudsen, M.S., RDN is a Registered Dietician Nutritionist and mindbodygreen's supplements editor. She holds a bachelor’s degree in nutrition from Texas Christian University and a master’s in nutrition interventions, communication, and behavior change from Tufts University. She lives in Boston, Massachusetts and enjoys connecting people to the food they eat and how it influences health and wellbeing.