Having no set bedtime could have serious implications for your health

A study has suggested irregular sleeping routines could increase your risk of depression and low mood

Young woman sleeping under an orange blanket
(Image credit: Tara Moore via Getty)

Having a set bedtime is something that people may aspire to, but getting into a good nighttime routine is often easier said than done. With the ongoing effects of the pandemic meaning that many people across the world are still working from home, for some, it might be even more challenging than usual to take a break from the screens that surround us and settle down for a good night's sleep

Whilst for others, the idea of a regular bedtime might be too rigid a structure to work around as they look forward to their weekend lie-ins. The question of how to sleep better may not be an easy one to answer. 

But when it comes to our health, it seems that having a set bedtime is more critical than you imagine. 

Why might having no set bedtime have health implications?

Prioritizing getting more sleep might be one thing, but the way you do it is just as important. As reported by Metro.co.uk, a new study from University of Michigan researchers has suggested that having an irregular sleep routine is linked with a greater risk of depression long-term. 

The study also reportedly found that having an irregular sleep routine could also affect you in the short-term too, in the form of poor mood the next day.

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The researchers assessed 2, 115 doctors in the first year of residency training after medical school, and participants were analyzed in two weeks before the study, as well as for one year during their residency.

Throughout this time, the participants had long, high-pressure working days as well as irregular work schedules, with night shifts and early starts common. Their sleep was evaluated through a wearable tracking device, whilst participants also completed a nine-item questionnaire assessing their mood.

How can having irregular sleep schedules affect us?

Following the study, the researchers found that reduced overall sleep time raised the likelihood of depression and low mood. However, getting irregular sleep time was found to be just as concerning. Increased variability in sleep time raised this likelihood to around the same degree. 

And when it comes to mood, the medical student participants’ responses to the questionnaires were truly enlightening. Those whose sleeping schedule changed the most throughout the week were found to be more likely to score higher on the depression questionnaires and to have lower daily mood ratings. 

Woman sleeping on her side in bed

(Image credit: Lars Zahner / EyeEm via Getty)

Coping with anxiety, depression, and stress has perhaps proved especially challenging in recent times and so it has never been more important to look out for ourselves and others' wellbeing. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as ensuring you have a set bedtime to help alleviate these feelings.

However, the study seems to suggest that a set bedtime may be beneficial to your overall wellbeing and health, whilst having an irregular sleeping schedule could have implications for this.

Trying to stick to set bedtimes and keep a more structured nighttime routine might just be worth trying out this year.

Emma Shacklock

Emma is a Royal Editor with eight years experience working in publishing. Her specialist areas include the British Royal Family, ranging from protocol to outfits. Alongside putting her royal knowledge to good use, Emma knows all there is to know about the latest TV shows on the BBC, ITV and more. When she’s not writing about the next unmissable show to add to your to-watch list or delving into royal protocol, Emma enjoys cooking, long walks and watching yet more crime dramas!