I traveled cross-country for a conference last week, marking my first time dealing with jet lag since before the pandemic.

Result? I was in bed and asleep at 10 p.m. almost every night for several days.

It felt good, and it turns out that without even planning to, I'd made a simple lifestyle change that reflects a reduced risk of developing heart disease.

This study behind this finding starts with something called the UK Biobank, which involved tracking the health and habits of more than 500,000 British people over 30 years, beginning in 2006. 

Participants answered health questions, had basic measurements taken (like height and weight), and provided samples of blood and urine. About 20 percent of participants also wore sleep-tracking devices on their wrists for seven days.

Fast-forward to the present day. A group of UK scientists was able to take some of this data -- relating to about 88,000 participants -- and use it to track the correlation between sleep habits and propensity to develop heart disease during the five-and-a-half years that followed.

Bottom line: About 3.6 percent of the participants overall developed cardiovascular diseases, such as stroke, heart attack, or another heart-related issue.

And, the researchers said they identified a significant correlation between bedtimes likelihood of being in that 3.6 percent who developed heart problems. 

Specifically, those who went to bed consistently between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. had by far the lowest incidence of heart trouble. Compared to those who went to bed during that hours:

  • People who went to bed after midnight each day had a 25 percent higher chance of developing heart issues.
  • Those who went to bed between 11 p.m. and midnight had a 12 percent higher risk.
  • Finally, those who went to bed before 10 p.m. also had a higher risk -- 24 percent higher than those who went to bed during the 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. hour.

The study was published in the journal, European Heart Journal -- Digital Health.

Now, it's important to recognize that our old friend, "correlation versus causation," is a big issue here. 

We can't go so far as to say that going to bed between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. actually causes a lower risk of heart trouble; it's just that people who went to bed at that time were less likely to develop heart issues for whatever reason.

But, lead study author Dr. David Plans of the University of Exeter, suggested that going to bed either "too late" or "too early" might interfere with the human body's circadian rhythms, which might have a more direct effect on a propensity for heart disease.

"While we cannot conclude causation from our study, the results suggest that early or late bedtimes may be more likely to disrupt the body clock, with adverse consequences for cardiovascular health," Plans said in a statement. 

I'll add another supposition, which is that people who consistently go to bed at the eminently reasonable hour of 10 p.m. might also be more likely to practice other behaviors that more directly affect health--and that it might be especially true for people with lots of responsibilities.

Examples? Well, in order to go to sleep at 10 p.m., you'd have to stop working sometime before then.

Getting on a schedule like that might also require putting other parts of your life on more of a regular schedule -- the times you eat, for example, and the time you get up in the morning. 

Beyond that, there's the simple fact that people who go to bed at 10 p.m. are more likely to get a full 7 or 8 hours of sleep than those who go to bed later, simply because even if you're up-and-at-'em at 5 a.m., you've still come close to seven hours of shuteye or more.

We talk a lot about the kinds of health habits that successful people can adopt in order to improve the likelihood they'll enjoy more time on this planet. We want them to reap the rewards of what they've worked so hard to create. 

So if it works for you, maybe follow the science and focus on getting to bed not too long after 10 p.m. each night for a while.  

And if you have a tough time getting in the swing of it, might I suggest a cross country trip for a week or so? You might pick up a healthier habit without even meaning to.