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Issue 102 Item 8 Lack of Sleep ‘Could Cause Diabetes?’

Apr 22, 2002

Lack of sleep could trigger diabetes and obesity, an expert claims. Doctor Derk-Jan Dijk, a senior lecturer in chronobiology at the University of Surrey, also says that poor sleep over a long period of time makes people up to 40 per cent more likely to suffer heart disease. And Dr Dijk confirmed that eight hours of sleep each night beginning at 11pm was "ideal" to rest the body.

Dr Dijk said: "It is getting more and more important to evaluate how much people sleep because of the effects on their health and their alertness and performance at work.

"Our society is getting busier and people are working at all times of the day. "However, the majority of people still work during the day and need around eight hours sleep.

"If our body clock is used to us being awake in the day and sleeping at night then we need eight hours sleep, beginning at 11pm. "This is because we secrete a chemical called melatonin in the evening and throughout the night, which makes us go to sleep."

Referring to nightshift workers, he said: "A night shifter who goes to sleep at 6am or 7am is less likely to sleep as well as somebody beginning their sleep at 11pm. "This is because of melatonin and the body clock which doesn’t normally allow the body to rest for more than six hours in one go.

"The body feels like it’s supposed to be awake, not asleep. But in the long term, even a night-shifter’s body clock can become accustomed to a change in sleeping patterns just as we do when we suffer jet lag on holiday.

"However, humans are by nature day-active and the major sleep episode occurs during the night."

Commenting on the effects of sleep deprivation, Dr Djik added: "Several studies have been made looking into the physical effects of sleep deprivation. "One effect is that people develop a reduced glucose tolerance, which means their blood-sugar levels take much longer to get back to normal after eating. "Because of this phenomenon, researchers have linked sleep deprivation with diabetes and also obesity.

"Another effect is that people, particularly night workers like those working on oil rigs, have cardiovascular problems." newsfeed