Sleep deprivation has a profound impact on multiple disease states. Findings compiled by Dr. David Johnson, Professor of Medicine at Eastern Virginia Medical School and published on Medscape Online  state that if you sleep less than 6 hours, epidemiologic studies show the following:

  • Stroke is increased by a factor of 4 times.
  • Obesity is increased by an increase in ghrelin, which is a hunger hormone.
  • Diabetes is increased because sleep deprivation increases insulin resistance.
  • Memory loss is accelerated. Epidemiologic studies show that there is not only permanent cognitive loss but also evidence of early brain deterioration.
  • Osteoporosis is increased, at least in an animal model, with changes in bone mineral density. Even changes in bone marrow are evident within 3 months of a study in a rat model.
  • Cardiac disease is increased. There is a 48% increase in early cardiac death, as well as increased cardiac-related mortality.
  • A 4-fold overall increase in mortality.
  • Increased risk of accidents due to decreased mental functioning
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Reduced resilience to stress

As well as this list, a provocative study published in Cancer Research identifies the relationship between sleep deprivation and tumour genesis and the acceleration of cancer tumours. As it relates to gastrointestinal disease, there is an increased risk for colon cancer, and at least 1 epidemiologic study shows an association between sleep deprivation (or lack of sleep) and an increase in the likelihood of precancerous (adenomatous) polyps.

The message is clear, sleep is vital to your health. Aim to get at least 7 hours per night and set a regular bed time when you normally feel tired, you should aim to stick to this at the weekend too. Well planned strategies are essential to deep, restorative sleep each night. Modern technology means that many of us go to bed with our smart phones, tablets and other devices. Try not to read from a backlit device, many ireaders are not backlit. The NHS Choices website has more information as does The Sleep Council which even offers advice on your bed.


Ref: Hakim F, Wang Y, Zhang SX, et al. Fragmented sleep accelerates tumor growth and progression through recruitment of tumor-associated macrophages and TLR4 signaling. Cancer Res. 2014 Jan 21.