In two separate studies, researchers in the UK, Italy and Holland have revealed that people getting less than the recommended six to eight hours of sleep per night have a higher chance of going to an early grave, and that regular sleepless nights could lead to the onset of diabetes.
UK and Italian study links lack of sleep with early death
The first study, undertaken in the UK and Italy, reviewed 16 separate previous studies from the UK, US, Europe and East Asia. The review included around 1.5 million people over a twenty five year period and charted the relationship between sleep and mortality. One hundred thousand of the participants died during the period covered by the studies.
The results of this research indicated that subjects regularly having less than six hours sleep were 12% more likely to die from any cause over the twenty five year period, than those who were getting the ideal six to eight hours sleep.
Leader of the Sleep, Health and Society Programme at the University of Warwick Prof. Cappuccio said, “Modern society has seen a gradual reduction in the average amount of sleep people take and this pattern is more common amongst full-time workers, suggesting that it may be due to societal pressure for longer working hours.”
There was also a clear link between people who slept for more than nine hours a night and early death, but that is thought to be because excessive sleep is a symptom of an underlying health problem rather than a cause.
Dutch study links sleepless nights with diabetes
The second study, undertaken in The Netherlands and published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, looked at the impact of sleep on the body’s ability to use insulin to metabolize glucose. It concluded that the body’s ability to use insulin was largely affected by the amount of sleep it had the night before.
The study measured insulin sensitivity in nine healthy subjects, once after a night with eight hours sleep and once after a night with four hours sleep. The results showed that one night of reduced sleep could temporarily reduce insulin sensitivity by 19-25%.
Esther Donga, director of Leiden University Medical Centre, said, “Our data indicates that insulin sensitivity is not fixed in healthy people, but depends on the duration of sleep in the preceding night.”
The body’s inability to use insulin efficiently can lead to type 2 diabetes, a disease growing to epidemic proportions in Western society. The Dutch study indicates that lack of sleep caused by longer working hours and increased time pressures could be a contributing factor to that increase.
Tips for a good night’s sleep
These seven top tips should help you to achieve that all important six to eight hours a night:
- Try to maintain a regular routine with a set waking time and bed time, even on weekends. Getting up at the same time each day helps sleep onset at night.
- Taking regular exercise will help you to sleep, but try not to exercise two to three hours before going to bed as this may prevent you falling asleep.
- Establish a relaxing bedtime routine, perhaps including a bath or shower and some time for reading or listening to music. This gives your subconscious some clues that it’s time to sleep.
- Keep your room for sleeping and take away work related items, exercise equipment, computers or televisions. This strengthens your association between bed and sleep and protects against sleepless nights.
- Make sure your room is conducive to sleep. It should be dark, quiet, well ventilated and at a constant temperature. Make sure your mattress is comfortable and supportive.
- In the three hours before bed try to avoid eating, drinking caffeinated or alcoholic drinks, and smoking. Some people find that warm milk or herbal tea can be a good late night alternative.
- Take Sleep-Aid (60), a natural alternative to drugs that is free from side effects or grogginess and can help if you have trouble getting to sleep, find it hard to stay asleep, or wake up too early.