An increasing number of studies have linked sleep loss to poor metabolic health, which raises the risk of chronic illness and premature death, an international team of researchers said.
They advised doctors to encourage patients to get better-quality sleep and avoid sleep loss to help reduce the numbers developing these conditions. New studies may shed light on whether improving sleep quality could even reverse these diseases.
The advice came in a review article from researchers led by Professor Bernd Schultes at the eSwiss Medical and Surgical Centre in Switzerland.
Metabolic health was traditionally thought to be dependent on diet, exercise and genetic factors, but an increasing number of studies have suggested a direct link with sleep quality as well.
Loss of sleep is common in modern life, particularly with the rise of devices such as tablets. This, as well as sleep disturbance and disruption to natural sleep cycles, may be contributing to increased risk of metabolic disorders such as obesity and diabetes, researchers said.
Changes in hormones released by the brain are seen as the main culprits for the negative effects of sleep loss on metabolic health. These may increase appetite and affect preferences for unhealthy food, thereby raising calorie intake, researchers said.
While the affects on exercise levels are less clear, they are unlikely to outweigh the extra food intake, they added.
The study authors said the findings could lead to new treatments to tackle the ‘epidemic’ of metabolic diseases.
They added: ‘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.’
Last year, a study found men who regularly lost out on a full night’s sleep during the week improved their insulin sensitivity by sleeping for several extra hours over the weekend.