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Commentary

Get More Sleep: It May Improve Health


August 12, 2019

mungerSleep is an important part of our daily routine.1 We spend about one-third of our time sleeping, and getting enough sleep is necessary for survival.  Sleep is important to many systems in your body including the brain, heart, and lungs to metabolism, immune function, mood, and disease resistance.  Research shows that a chronic lack of sleep, or getting poor quality sleep, increases the risk of disorders including high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, and obesity.1 

Recently, a new study sheds some important light on the cardiometabolic risk factors associated with the effects of sleep extension.2 What is sleep extension?  It is simply increasing sleep duration.  Seven studies were identified  that aimed to increase sleep duration in adults by any sleep extension intervention.  A total of 138 participants who were either healthy (n=14), healthy short-sleeping (n=92), overweight short-sleeping (n=10), or pre- or hypertensive short-sleeping (n=22) individuals.  All participants increased their total sleep time between 21-177 minutes by going to bed and waking later, sleep consultation sessions, behavioral counseling, and setting a fixed sleep schedule.  Sleep extension improved insulin sensitivity, decreased leptin (believed to be a leading hormone for fat gain), with reductions in overall appetite, desire for sweet and salty foods, intake of daily free sugar, and percentage of daily caloric intake from protein.

So a good nights’ sleep is important for cardiometabolic health.  Improving sleep extension over a 3-6 day period appears to be viable intervention that improves direct and indirect measures of insulin sensitivity and food craving.  Drugs can cause sleep disturbances.  Those include SSRIs, dopamine agonists, psychostimulants and amphetamines, anticonvulsants, cold medicines and decongestants, steroids, β-agonists, and theophylline. These drugs should be avoided in persons who are experiencing sleep disturbances, and in persons at risk of cardiovascular or cardiometabolic diseases.  Further research is certainly needed in this area as the studies in systematic review were preliminary.   

References:

  1. Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep. https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/understanding-Sleep Accessed 07/2019
  2. Henst RHP, Pienaar PR, Roden C, Rae DE. The effects of sleep extension on cardiometabolic risk factors: A systematic review.  J Sleep Res 2019;00:e12865. https://doi.org/10.1111/jsr.12865
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