Q & A Library
Counting Too Many Sheep?
Is it true that loss of sleep triggers inflammation in the body that can lead to heart disease and other health problems? If so, what can those of us who don't get enough sleep do to compensate?
Answer (Published 11/17/2008)
Some fascinating new research suggests that losing even a few hours of sleep can set processes in motion that lead to inflammation, which in turn can contribute to disease. The same study suggests that the opposite is true, too: that a good night's sleep lowers the risk of diseases that have an inflammatory component. Researchers at UCLA looked at levels of a factor called (NF)-kB, which is involved in inflammatory signaling in healthy adults. They measured these levels among volunteers after normal sleep, after partial sleep deprivation and after recovery sleep. Interestingly, they saw sleep-related increases in the inflammatory response only in women. The new findings were published in the September 15, 2008 issue of Biological Psychiatry.
The studies give us a better understanding of why sleep disturbance is associated with the risk of all kinds of medical problems including cardiovascular disease, arthritis, diabetes, certain types of cancer and obesity.
Sleeping problems in the U.S. are widespread and stem from all types of stress: from work, school and social demands. Americans spend billions every year on sleep aids. I think there are better ways to get a good night's rest. Recognizing that sleep deprivation is not a trivial matter and can damage your health should prompt you to think seriously about the steps you can take to improve matters. Start by following my general recommendations for getting a good night's sleep:
Andrew Weil, M.D.
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