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Study: Address sleep quality to prevent metabolic disorders

Tuesday March 25, 2014
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Evidence increasingly suggests that insufficient or disturbed sleep is associated with metabolic disorders such as type 2 diabetes and obesity, and addressing poor sleep quality should be a target for the prevention — and even treatment — of these disorders, according to a study.

“Metabolic health, in addition to genetic predisposition, is largely dependent on behavioral factors such as dietary habits and physical activity,” researchers from Germany and Switzerland wrote March 25 on the website of The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology. “In the past few years, sleep loss as a disorder characterizing the 24-hour lifestyle of modern societies has increasingly been shown to represent an additional behavioral factor adversely affecting metabolic health.”

Addressing some types of sleep disturbance — such as sleep apnea — may have a directly beneficial effect on patients’ metabolic health, the authors said. But a far more common problem is a simple lack of sleep, particularly due to the increased use of devices such as tablets and portable gaming devices.

Furthermore, circadian desynchrony — disruption of the body’s natural sleeping and waking cycle — which often is experienced by shift workers and others who work outside daylight hours, also appears to have a clear association with poor metabolic health, accompanied by increased rates of chronic illness and early mortality.

Although a number of epidemiological studies point to a clear association between poor quality of sleep and metabolic disorders, the reason for this association was not clear until recently. Experimental studies have provided initial evidence of a direct causal link between loss of sleep and the body’s ability to metabolize glucose, control food intake and maintain its energy balance.

“These findings open up new strategies for targeted interventions aimed at the present epidemic of the metabolic syndrome and related diseases,” the authors stated. “Ongoing and future studies will show whether interventions to improve sleep duration and quality can prevent or even reverse adverse metabolic traits.

“Meanwhile, on the basis of existing evidence, healthcare professionals can be safely recommended to motivate their patients to enjoy sufficient sleep at the right time of day.”

Study abstract: http://bit.ly/1fVmu9L


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