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10 conditions made worse by poor sleep

A good, restful night's sleep is known to be good for your health - but not getting enough sleep can be bad for it. Studies have found a lack of sleep over time can increase the risk of developing some conditions or make existing ones worse. Here are some examples:

1. Obesity and putting on weight

A study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2016 found that people who don't get enough sleep consumed an extra 385 calories the following day.

The findings were made by researchers at King's College London who reviewed 11 older studies with a total of 172 participants. All the studies they looked at compared people who didn't get enough sleep with those who did and also looked at what they ate afterwards.

Sleep deprived people didn't necessarily eat more - but they tended to opt for food that was higher in fat and lower in protein. They didn't see any change in the amount of carbohydrates they ate.

Another study, presented to the European Congress of Endocrinology in Lisbon in 2017, suggested that sleep loss can stimulate production of a hormone that makes us feel hungry, so we eat more and gain weight.

Uppsala University researchers say the underlying cause of increased obesity risk from sleep disruption remains unclear, although it could be caused by changes in appetite, metabolism, motivation, physical activity, or a combination of factors.

2. Heart disease and stroke

Many people at risk of heart disease and diabetes are at a higher risk of dying from heart disease or stroke if they get fewer than 6 hours sleep a night, a US study suggested in 2017.

Researchers writing in the Journal of the American Heart Association say the risk could be around double that of those who don't have the same risk factors – known as metabolic syndrome.

The researchers found that those with metabolic syndrome who slept for less than 6 hours were more than twice as likely to die of heart disease and stroke.

3. Irregular heartbeat

Having disturbed sleep could increase your chances of having an irregular heartbeat, according to a study.

Preliminary research presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2016 conference suggested that sleep apnoea, insomnia, and frequent waking, are all risk factors.

Previous research has shown that a link exists between poor sleep and people who already have a particular type of irregular heartbeat known as atrial fibrillation.

Researchers at the University of California looked at data from 3 different US studies which examined the relationship between sleep and irregular heartbeat. They found that:

  • Disrupted sleep, including insomnia, may be a risk factor for an irregular heartbeat
  • People who say they wake up frequently had about a 26% higher risk of developing an irregular heartbeat than those who didn't wake up a lot
  • People diagnosed with insomnia had a 29% higher risk of developing an irregular heartbeat than those without insomnia

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