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Diabetes, obesity and stroke have a common trigger. Here’s what it is

Diabetes, obesity and stroke, according to experts, could be triggered by lack of sleep. If you don’t sleep enough, it could lead to many health problems.

fitness Updated: May 21, 2018 11:33 IST
Manali Shah
Manali Shah
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
Diabetes,Sleep,Diabetes and sleep
You can save yourself from diabetes, obesity and stroke by getting adequate sleep. Sleep deprivation could lead to many health problems. (Shutterstock)

Did you know that diabetes, obesity and stroke have a common trigger? You will be surprised to know that all these health problems could be a result of lack of sleep. If you’re sleeping for less than eight hours each night, working the graveyard shift, or pulling all-nighters frequently (whether to party or to study), you need to be alarmed. Sleep deprivation can seriously affect your health and quality of life. It produces effects similar to long term jet lag, and the effects are more severe if deprivation is longer.

Apart from feeling tired and fatigued after waking up in the mornings, some other effects of sleep deprivation include constipation or occasionally irritable bowel syndrome, where people develop altered bowel habits and alternating diarrhoea and constipation. “It can also worsen other ailments like migraine, chronic daily headaches (especially in mornings), and worsening control of asthma, or heart disease,” says Dr Annu Aggarwal, consultant - neurology, specialist cognitive and behavioural neurology, Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, Mumbai.

Lack of sleep can affect you in multiple ways and you may not even realise you’re suffering from sleep deprivation. “It is often difficult to diagnose sleep deprivation. Patients seek help from multiple doctors depending on their symptoms but may not get benefit unless sleep deprivation is treated,” adds Dr Aggarwal.

So, what are the short term effects of sleep deprivation?

•Inability to concentrate

Sleep deprivation or sleep restriction over a prolonged period of time leads to neurochemical changes in the body. “Simply put, leads to the decreased ability to concentrate in addition to affecting the cognitive functions leading to cognitive deficits, says Dr Rohan Aurangabadwalla, pulmonologist, Apollo Hospitals, Mumbai.

Being glued to your smartphone or TV during sleeping hours is one of the causes of disturbed sleep. (Shutterstock)

•Impaired memory and impaired response time

Sleep plays a very important role in learning and memory consolidation. Sleep deprivation affects your memory. “During a good night’s sleep, the brain forges connections between the nerve cells in the brain where information is stored. This plays a huge role in the quality of memory formed,” he says. Lack of sleep also directly affects the nervous system, slowing down the body’s response time. This can be detrimental in people working on heavy machinaries or drivers leading to accidents.

•Mood swings

Poor sleep also takes a toll on emotional health. “Studies have shown that people with sleep deficiencies are unable to properly process their emotional responses. Poor sleep puts the body in a state of stress during which it experiences agitation and anxiety,” he adds. This leads to more feelings of irritability and anger.

Take a look at the long term effects of sleep deprivation:

•Diabetes and obesity

Sleep deprivation has been linked to an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes. “When the circadian rhythm of the body gets thrown out of whack because of consistently disrupted sleep cycles, it has a profound effect on the hormone levels. This affects the way glucose is processed in the bloodstream, and increases the risk of Type 2 diabetes,” says Dr Aurangabadwalla. Weight management also becomes difficult as a sleep deprived person is likely to be less physically active.

Lack of sleep affects the way glucose is processed in the bloodstream, and increases the risk of Type 2 diabetes in the long term. (Shutterstock)

•Cardiovascular diseases and stroke

“Studies have also shown that sleep deprivation increases the risk for heart disease and stroke. Chronic and long term sleep deprivation/sleep restriction has a distressing effect on the heart and circulatory systems”, he says. Essentially, during sleep the body can recover and rejuvenate itself and when this does not happen, there is added pressure and stress on all the organs of the body.

Here are some of the common causes of inadequate sleep:

Inadequate number of hours slept is not the only reason you can end up with sleep deprivation. According to Dr Aggarwal, disturbed sleep can also be the culprit. If you sleep with the lights switched on in the bedroom, if there bright lights in the washroom, if you’re glued to your smartphone or TV during sleeping hours, or if you’re in a noisy environment, it all counts as disturbed sleep.

Uncomfortable or noisy surroundings lead to disturbed sleep. (Shutterstock)

“Taking brain stimulants like tea, coffee, aerated cold drinks, alcohol or tobacco in the hours leading up to sleep time, or having a heavy meal just before sleep also leads to improper sleep,” she says.

Let’s take a look at essential sleep requirements:

Hours of sleep: Teenagers and adults need around 8 hours of sleep, while children require more. In elderly the sleep requirement decreases and may be 6-7 hours. In young adults, the sleep requirement may vary from 6-10 hours. “Sleeping more over weekends in young people can make up sleeping less over weekdays. However, as we age we require daily sleep,” says Dr Aggarwal.

•Ideal timing: It’s best to be awake during the day and sleep the night away rather than the other way round. “Ideally, hit the bed by 10 or 11 pm. Frequent late nights and sleeping at 2am or later decreases sleep efficiency and leads to sleep deprivation, even if the number of hours slept are ideal,” she cautions.

Sleep hygiene: This refers to the sleep environment. “The room temperature should be right, there should be proper ambient light and sound, you should wear comfortable loose clothing, and there should be an absence of distractions,” she says.

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First Published: May 21, 2018 08:42 IST