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Internal clocks can be ticking time bombs for diabetes, obesity

Filed in
  • Sleep Disorders
  • Circadian rhythms

By Lynn Celmer  |  Apr 01, 2013
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If you're pulling and all-nighter to finish a term paper, a new parent up all night with a fussy baby, or simply can't sleep like you once could, then you may be snoozing on good health. That's because new research published in The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) Journal used mice to show that proper sleep patterns are critical for healthy metabolic function, and even mild impairment in our circadian rhythms can lead to serious health consequences, including diabetes and obesity.

"We should acknowledge the unforeseen importance of our 24-hour rhythms for health," said Claudia Coomans, Ph.D., a researcher involved in the work from the Department of Molecular Cell Biology in the Laboratory of Neurophysiology at Leiden University Medical Center in Leiden, Netherlands. "To quote Seneca 'We should live according to nature (secundum naturam vivere).'"

For the study, Coomans and colleagues exposed mice to constant light, which disturbed their normal internal clock function, and observed a gradual degradation of their bodies' internal clocks until it reached a level that normally occurs when aging. Eventually the mice lost their 24-hour rhythm in energy metabolism and insulin sensitivity, indicating that relatively mild impairment of clock function had severe metabolic consequences.

A number of sleep disorders that are linked to misaligned circadian rhythms including insomnia, jet lag and shift work disorder Abnormal circadian rhythms have also been blamed for depression, bipolar disorder and seasonal affective disorder, which is more common in the winter.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine considers sleep disorders an illness that has reached epidemic proportions. Board certified sleep medicine physicians in an AASM accredited sleep center can provide effective treatment. AASM encourages patients to talk to their doctors about sleep problems or visit www.sleepeducation.com for a searchable directory of sleep centers.


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