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Is Your Social Life Harming Your Health?

Posted in General Health 07 Mar, 2015

Are you a night owl who loves nothing more than staying late down the pub, chatting with your friends or catching up over a pint or three every other evening? While it's great to go out and enjoy yourself, you might be underestimating the impact that socialising has on your health in the long term.

A study that looked at the sleep habits of 815 New Zealanders assessed the differences in their sleep schedules depending on whether it was a weekend or a weekday, comparing their sleep midpoints.

Researchers discovered that people whose sleep schedules varied significantly, by more than two hours, were more likely to have high blood sugar levels, high blood pressure and inflammation. This could potentially increase their risk of developing type 2 diabetes, strokes and coronary artery disease.

How regular socialising can put you at risk

As most socialising takes place at night in pubs and clubs, many people catch up with their friends over alcoholic drinks and this often means staying up into the early hours. But don't underestimate your need for sleep; it plays an important role in regulating metabolism and going against your body clock, or circadian rhythm, can aggravate your risk of contracting certain conditions.

Additionally, if you're a habitual night owl you are more likely to go out binge drinking, which is notoriously bad for your health. Excess drinking is also associated with consuming calories that have little nutritional value, in the form of junk foods such as takeaway kebabs and pizzas. A recent British study published in the European Journal of Cancer supported the theory that junk food, especially fried food, can increase your risk of coronary heart disease and other conditions such as bowel cancer.

Anyone who consistently stays up till the early hours could be damaging their health, and this is bad news for shift workers, who often stay up overnight. Studies have shown that shift workers who often change their sleep schedules, by working a combination of night and day shifts for example, tend to be overweight and in poor health.

While not many of us want to go to bed early on a Saturday night, it's important to get into a regular sleeping routine to ensure your body is getting enough rest and that you wake up feeling refreshed the next day.

A few simple tips for a good night's sleep

1. Try to get into the habit of going to bed at a set time, the earlier the better. Make sure you're getting up at the same time as well, even if you don't feel that you've slept for long enough. It may take a while for your body to adapt to the new regime.

2. Eat healthily. Snack on fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds throughout the day instead of crisps and chocolate. This will help regulate your blood sugar and prevent spikes from keeping you awake.

3. Avoid binge drinking at the weekend, as this can be detrimental to your health. Drink slowly, only have a few drinks or even try going without and see how much better you feel the next day. Your wallet and your health will thank you for it!

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