Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Sleep loss and metabolic syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is a chronic disorder characterized by abdominal obesity, impaired blood sugar metabolism, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. Here is an article about sleep loss and it's affect on our metabolism. The article is a review of the observational studies that examine the relationship between sleep deprivation and metabolic syndrome. The authors discuss some of the studies that show that acute sleep loss is linked with obesity, type 2 diabetes, cholesterol problems, high blood pressure, and even death. Of note, some of the studies show increased rates of some of these issues when people report sleeping less than or more than a specified "normal" amount of sleep. So it's not just sleep loss that is linked to problems, including mortality.

The authors note that sleep loss can affect appetite, food intake, physical activity levels, and energy expenditure. Again, these are short term studies and the reasons for the changes are not entirely clear. Results sometimes are conflicting, such as some studies showing higher levels, and other studies showing lower levels of appetite regulating hormones.

The authors conclude that sleep loss may be a "promising target for the prevention, and probably the treatment, of the metabolic syndrome and its components." Perhaps that is the case, but telling people to get more sleep is unlikely to improve their metabolic syndrome. It's certainly more complicated than that. Diet and exercise are just as important, and most likely much more so than just getting more sleep. I concede that insufficient sleep may contribute a small part to metabolic syndrome, but more long term studies are needed. And I agree with the authors when they conclude that ongoing and future studies will show whether interventions to improve sleep duration and quality can prevent or even reverse adverse metabolic traits."

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