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Sleep, or Die!

Posted by bmagnus On May - 5 - 2010

We’ve talked before about how too little sleep can result in memory problems, depression, appetite control issues, an increased risk of cancer, and increases in visceral fat. Even normal levels of sleep paired with eating in the middle of the night can cause weight gain. Today we have more news about sleep; and if you don’t get enough, it is not good news.

First, we have a team of researchers who did a meta-study of 16 studies involving over 1,300,000 people, of whom over 100,000 died. That’s a huge amount of information and not easily discounted. Looking over all that data, they found that “people who sleep for less than six hours each night were 12% more likely to die prematurely than those who get the recommended 6-8 hours.” While there was also an increased risk of death for those who sleep more than 9 hours a day, they determined “whilst short sleep may represent a cause of ill-health, long sleep is believed to represent more an indicator of ill-health”. In other words, they slept a long time because they were ill, rather than illness being caused by too much sleep.

Another story to be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism has more. While researchers have long known that too little sleep can result in impaired glucose tolerance — a pre-diabetic condition that is a risk factor for death all by itself — this new study shows that just one sleepless night can cause insulin resistance, even in healthy people! Insulin resistance is a serious condition where the body doesn’t respond normally to insulin. As a result, more insulin is produced. Since the metabolism is dysfunctional, weight gain and other symptoms develop. Both impaired glucose tolerance and insulin resistance put you at risk of developing diabetes. In fact, the lead researcher on this study feels that “further studies are needed to evaluate whether interventions aimed at improving sleep duration may be beneficial in stabilizing glucose levels in patients with diabetes.”

It is not known whether the meta-study looked at data on the incidence of diabetes in the 16 studies they considered. However, diabetes was the 7th leading cause of death in the United States in 2006.

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