This week is Sleep Awareness Week, an annual outreach and education event started by the National Sleep Foundation to promote—what else?—the importance of getting a good night’s sleep. It ends on Sunday when we “spring ahead” for Daylight Saving Time, but in the meantime here are two new sleep studies making headlines:
Lack of Sleep Linked to Higher Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
Researchers at the University of Chicago recently found a connection between too little sleep and a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes. In a small study involving 19 adult men, those who got too little sleep (around four hours total) for a few nights in a row had higher levels of free fatty acids in the blood. These by-products of fat metabolism prevent the hormone insulin from doing its job of regulating blood sugar levels, and according to study authors the effects were similar to those seen in the early stages of diabetes.
Are Sleep Aids Increasing Your Risk for Dementia?
A new study from scientists at the University of Washington School of Pharmacy found that certain types of over-the-counter drugs—including sleep aids—increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia in seniors. Even in small amounts the drugs have anticholinergic effects, which means they prevent the neurotransmitter acetylcholine from functioning properly and as a result impact cognitive function. However, the study found that heavier use dramatically increases the risk for cognitive impairment. Anticholinergic drugs also include some antidepressants, antihistamines, and medications for overactive bladder.
Still, blood sugar and brain health are just the beginning. Getting enough sleep is important for your whole body to function properly—not to mention for maintaining a healthy weight, reducing stress, and improving mood. As you change those clocks this weekend, remember that most experts recommend getting between 7 and 9 hours of sleep for optimal health.