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Quality of sleep can address obesity and diabetes, review finds

Clinical Experimental studies starting to prove causal link between loss of sleep and the body’s ability to metabolise glucose

Healthcare professionals should recommend better sleep to prevent and even treat metabolic disorders such as obesity and type 2 diabetes, researchers have said.

Experimental studies were starting to provide evidence of a causal link between loss of sleep and the body's ability to metabolise glucose, control food intake and maintain its energy balance, according to a review published in the Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology journal yesterday (March 25).

The findings paved the way for "targeted interventions" at the present "epidemic" of metabolic diseases, said the authors, including Sebastian Schmid of the Wellcome Trust-Medical Research Council Institute of Metabolic Sciences at the University of Cambridge.

"On the basis of existing evidence, healthcare professionals can be safely recommended to motivate their patients to enjoy sufficient sleep at the right time of day," the authors concluded.

People are not getting enough sleep due to the increased use of tablets and portable gaming devices, which were adversely affecting metabolic health

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Addressing some types of sleep disturbance, such as sleep apnoea, could directly benefit patients' metabolic health, the authors said, following their review of articles published on PubMed, the online database of research findings, between January 1998 and October 2013.  

But there was more of a problem in people not getting enough sleep due to the "24-hour lifestyle" of modern society and the increased use of tablets and portable gaming devices, which were adversely affecting metabolic health, they said.

The authors suggested that programmes on sleep education and cognitive behavioural therapy, which focused on improving sleep hygiene, could help induce behavioural changes and ultimately regulate sleep patterns.

Studies investigating the effect of these interventions were being planned and could have broad public health implications, they added.

Furthermore, the avoidance of noise and light at sleeping time might be an effective approach to increase sleep quality, the review highlighted.

Ongoing and future studies were needed to show whether interventions to improve sleep duration and quality could prevent or even reverse "adverse metabolic traits," the review concluded.

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