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A lack of sleep through night time iPad fiddling could contribute to obesity and the adult onset of diabetes , says a new report. The researchers say that asking patients about sleep should be just as important to GPs as questions about smoking, alcohol and eating habits. German and Swiss scientists, writing in The Lancet, noted a connection between lack of sleep (and also poor quality sleep) and the likelihood of many metabolic disorders.
Getting less than 5-6 hours of sleep a night increases the risk of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol by around 50%. Poor sleep also impairs glucose tolerance and insulin resistance, the first steps to diabetes. It disturbs the HPT hormonal axis which is responsible for controlling appetite, sex drive and mood, amongst others. So increased hunger for fatty, sweet “survival foods” are also a by product of restless nights.
The main author of the paper, Sebastian Schmid, said “I think that sleep loss is something we need to consider in our clinics, especially in young people who are faced by all the new technology and a modern, 24/7 lifestyle”.
Studies in the US have shown that our transatlantic cousins are getting less sleep too. A third of people do not get enough and the amount of sleep has fallen by 2 hours over the last few decades. Although the German/Swiss study admitted that the amount of sleep needed by individuals varies, overall 7-8 hours is the amount needed to stay healthy and alert.
Simple steps can help – keep your bedroom dark, keep the temperature right, have a quiet environment and don’t use iPads or phones before sleep, as this increases time needed to drop off. Some studies have even found that glowing screens decrease levels of melatonin, which is a sleep trigger.
By Robert A Atkinson