The old adage of "early to bed, early to rise," promising health, wealth, and wisdom, may feel pretty simplistic. But doctors have long touted the advantages of a good night's rest and all of the ways it can make you healthier. Now, a recent study has proven that hitting the sheets early can at least deliver one of the three things promised in the old saying. The research, which was published in the journal BMJ Open Diabetes Research&Care, proved that if you're still going to bed past midnight, you could actually be hurting your health.
The researchers recorded the exact time at which 635 type 2 diabetes patients went to bed every night. The results showed that 25 percent of the subjects got to bed at 10:52 p.m. on average, while 23 percent were staying up until 12:36 a.m. on average. Despite being a somewhat subtle shift in sleep time - about an hour and 45 minutes - the researchers noticed a huge difference in lifestyles between the groups.
"Our research [shows] that night owls exercise 56 percent less than their early bird counterparts," study co-author Joseph Henson, MD, of the University of Leicester in Australia, said in a statement. "This makes understanding the factors that can mitigate a person's propensity to exercise extremely important."
The researchers drew the conclusion that night owls were simply less likely to seize the morning opportunity to work out - and therefore lead less healthy lifestyles. "The links between later sleep times and physical activity are clear: go to bed late and you're less likely to be active," study co-author Alex Rowlands, MD, of the University of South Australia added.
The good news? Now's the time to "change your lifestyle for the better, simply by adjusting your bedtime," Rowlands explained.
There's no shortage of scientific evidence backing up the benefits of an earlier bedtime. One study found that sleeping even 15 minutes less a night could lead to considerable weight gain thanks to a boost in late-night snacking and the "hunger hormone" ghrelin. And other research has found that getting in your eight hours at a reasonable time can lower your anxiety levels and boost your immune system.
Need some help hitting the hay before midnight? Sleep experts recommend that you put your phone down an hour before bedtime, stop eating three hours before you go to bed, swap out late-night strenuous exercise with yoga, or read some fiction, NBC News Reports. And for more on getting in your full 40 winks, check out This One Thing Can Cure Your Insomnia, New Study Says.
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