Quality of sleep linked to heart disease, diabetes

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

According to a recent study conducted at Duke University, late-night cramming sessions cause more health problems for women than men.

The study found women who get a poor night’s sleep were more susceptible to Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Edward Suarez, associate professor in the department of psychiatry at Duke University, examined the sleep habits of 210 healthy, middle-aged men and women. His research focused on the quality of sleep and the levels of biomarkers, which are associated with increased risk of heart disease and diabetes.

“A number of studies have shown the length of your sleep predicts disease along the road,” Suarez said. “Poor sleep alters the way the body works and promotes the onset and progression of disease.”

But what constitutes a good night’s sleep?

Dr. Stan Leung, professor of physiology and pharmacology and clinical neurological sciences at the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, offered his explanation.

“The normal pattern goes in a cycle and an average night has about four or five of those cycles in a seven-hour period,” Dr. Leung said.

Though the effects of a poor night’s sleep can be severe, young adults are at an advantage.

“Sleep differs as we get older,” Suarez explained. “People in their late teens and early 20s seem to get more of what is called ‘deep sleep,’ and older people don’t get as much.”

Suarez warned women are at a greater risk when it comes to sleep-related health issues.

“Half of the women who have poor sleep are overweight, and have a higher level of these proteins in the blood that are related to Type 2 diabetes, and show a higher level of depressive symptoms,” Suarez explained.

But Cindy Gregus, a fourth-year arts student, thought she had her best performance when she kept a healthier lifestyle.

As for men, their situation is a bit different, Saurez explained.

“The difference is testosterone. Men who are poor sleepers are usually not particularly overweight. As testosterone levels drop, it may be an association towards poor sleep and risks of disease.”

Second-year mechanical engineering student Youssef Abdul Mooti said he tends to go to sleep around 12 a.m. and wakes up between 8 and 10 a.m. He said he is rarely tired enough to nap during the day and has not noticed a disparity when it comes to women.

“[We] both go through the same stuff,” he said.

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