A new study revealed that sleep deprivation and particularly night shifts do not have only harmless symptoms as concentration problems, lack of energy or irritability, but it can also create a predisposition for more severe health issues.
An insufficient amount of sleep can lead to a malfunctioning in the body’s involuntary processes, which could result in an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Scientists say that the modern society offered new social opportunities and requested work conditions that shifted the lifestyle from a predominant daytime one to a more nocturnal one.
The study focused on how sleep deprivation is linked to heart disease. A number of 26 healthy subjects with ages between 20 and 39 were asked to restrict their sleep time to five hours. The experiment continued for eight days.
One group had fixed bedtimes, and others had the bedtime delayed with eight and a half hours during four of the eight days.
Both sleep deprived groups have shown increased blood pressure during the daytime. However, subjects with delayed bedtime had high blood pressure even during the night time.
The combination of sleep deprivation and delayed bedtimes raised the amount of norepinephrine in urinary excretion. Norepinephrine is a stress hormone responsible for blood vessel constrictions, an increase in blood pressure and windpipe expansions.
Delayed betimes also produce less varied heart rates in the nighttime and a decrease in the activity of the vagal nerve that controls heart rate variability.
The leading author of the study says that all humans respect a circadian rhythm that is regulated by an internal neuronal clock. Misalignments occur when the sleep-awake and feeding cycles are not harmonious with the human internal clock.
The adverse effects have a higher occurrence among shift workers, which are known to have an insufficient sleep regime.
The results of the study emphasize the benefits of restorative nighttime sleep that follow shift rotations, as during the night and more specifically during the deep sleep periods the body restores the heart function.
Sleep deprivation has also been linked to increased risk for diabetes and breast cancer.
As the percentage of shift workers is around 15-30% of the population from industrialized countries, and currently, there is a high demand for night shifts, doctors will try to mitigate the effects of sleep deprivation.
Adults that have night shifts in their schedule are advised to adopt a healthy diet, to exercise regularly and to get as much sleep as possible.
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