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Lack of Sleep: a driver for adverse health conditions


The brain, as well as the body, requires adequate rest to function well: achieving both NREM and REM is paramount.

After 16 hours of being awake the brain loses focus and cognitive performance is impacted. Long term mild sleep restriction impairs performance as much as going without sleep for 24 hours.

When it comes to learning, sleeping well before a learning activity increases the ability to make new memories and also sleeping well the night after learning allows the brain to better consolidate the memories. So, staying up all night to cram for an exam generally doesn’t benefit. Similarly, learning new skills such as sports or playing a musical instrument are enhanced by practice and sleep (1). Research on sleep and sport indicate that less than 8 hours sleep a night reduces performance and increases risk of injury (2) .

Poor sleep stimulates the production of adrenalin leading to the stimulation of inflammatory processes. Consistently achieving less than 6 hours sleep a night is a common trigger and mediator of chronic inflammation which increases the risk of inflammation related disorders such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and depression (3,4).

Lack of sleep is implicated in psychiatric illnesses. Studies in young people with schizophrenia have massively reduced deep NREM sleep (5) .

Gut disorders such as IBS, Chron’s, ulcerative colitis and acid reflux are conditions where evidence suggests that poor sleep worsens conditions and in turn the discomfort and inflammation of these conditions increases more sleep disruption (6).

Sleep loss and poor quality of sleep has a deleterious effect on glucose metabolism potentially leading to the development of obesity and insulin resistance and exacerbating existing endocrine conditions (7). Having a misaligned circadian rhythm by 12 hours, as seen in night/shift work, also increases the risk of dysregulated glucose metabolism.

Studies on Alzheimer’s (AD) indicate that long term insufficient sleep leads to increased risk of a toxic protein, beta-amyloid plaques, formation in the brain, especially in the regions that generate NREM. Population studies indicate that individuals with sleep disorders (insomnia, sleep apnoea) have a greater risk for developing AD. Sleep disturbance precedes the onset of the disease by some years (1).

Continued next week: Sleep Part III – Lifestyle and Nutritional Support for Sleep

References:

1. Walker M (2017). Why We Sleep. The New Science of Sleep and Dreams. Penguin Books.

2. Milewski MD et al. Chronic lack of sleep is associated with increased sports injuries in adolescent athletes. Journal of pediatric orthopedics. 2014 Mar;34(2):129-33. PubMed PMID: 25028798.

3. Irwin MR. Why Sleep Is Important for Health: A Psychoneuroimmunology Perspective. Annu Rev Psychol [Internet]. Annual Reviews ; 2015 Jan 3 [cited 2018 Jul 5];66(1):143–72. Available from: http://www.annualreviews.org/doi/10.1146/annurev-psych-010213-115205

4. Tsuno N, Besset A, Ritchie K. The Journal of clinical psychiatry. [Internet]. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. [Physicians Postgraduate Press]; 2005 [cited 2018 Jul 5]. 1254-1269 p. Available from: http://www.psychiatrist.com/JCP/article/Pages/2005/v66n10/v66n1008.aspx

5. Manoach DS, Stickgold R. Sleep, memory and schizophrenia. Sleep Med [Internet]. NIH Public Access; 2015 May [cited 2018 Jul 5];16(5):553–4. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25747334

6. Ali T, Choe J, Awab A, Wagener TL, Orr WC. Sleep, immunity and inflammation in gastrointestinal disorders. World J Gastroenterol [Internet]. Baishideng Publishing Group Inc; 2013 Dec 28 [cited 2018 Jul 5];19(48):9231–9. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24409051

7. Spiegel K, Tasali E, Leproult R, Van Cauter E. Effects of poor and short sleep on glucose metabolism and obesity risk. Nat Rev Endocrinol [Internet]. Nature Publishing Group; 2009 May 1 [cited 2018 Jul 5];5(5):253–61. Available from: http://www.nature.com/doifinder/10.1038/nrendo.2009.23

from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24409051

7. Spiegel K, Tasali E, Leproult R, Van Cauter E. Effects of poor and short sleep on glucose metabolism and obesity risk. Nat Rev Endocrinol [Internet]. Nature Publishing Group; 2009 May 1 [cited 2018 Jul 5];5(5):253–61. Available from: http://www.nature.com/doifinder/10.1038/nrendo.2009.23


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