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Monday 24th October 2016

Health problems link to sleep loss

9th June 2008

Doctors in the United States are trying to spread the message to increasingly busy Americans that sleep is necessary if severe health problems are to be avoided.


Healthy people are often tempted to voluntarily restrict sleep, to stay up an hour or two or get up an hour or two earlier, according to Greg Belenky, director of the Sleep and Performance Research Center at Washington State University Spokane.

But being deprived of sleep meant that people were reducing productivity and exposing themselves to risk.

An estimated 40 million Americans struggle with some type of sleep disorder each year.

Before the advent of electric light in 1880, people slept around 10 hours a night. Modern Americans average 6.9 hours a night during the week, and 7.5 hours at weekends.

Chris Drake, senior scientist at the Henry Ford Hospital Sleep Disorders and Research Center in Detroit said many problems could emerge once a person's sleep drops to six hours or less.

The group of people getting optimal sleep is getting smaller and smaller, although experts recommend seven to eight hours of sleep each night.

Sleeplessness affects decision-making, attentiveness, and safety, especially in cars. Sleep loss has been linked to weight gain, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart problems, depression and substance abuse.

Drake said hormones that process appetite begin to get disorganised, as levels of leptin, an appetite-suppressing hormone, drop when a person gets too little sleep. At the same time, ghrelin - a hormone that stimulates appetite - increases with a lack of sleep.

The sleep-deprived body also loses ability to regulate glucose, and can lead to stress, including inflammation, heart problems and rise in blood pressure.

Some sleep is lost due to macho bravado, while other causes include insomnia, sleep apnoea and restless legs syndrome, conditions which require medical attention.

The US National Institutes of Health advises sticking to a regular sleep schedule, avoiding exercise closer than five or six hours before bedtime, as well as caffeine, nicotine and alcohol before bed. Large meals late at night can prevent sleep, as can naps after 3 pm or a failure to wind down ahead of bedtime.


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