As chronic diseases play an increasingly common role in premature mortality and morbidity, there is growing interest in the role of sleep health in the development and management of chronic diseases. Lack of sleep has been linked to the development and treatment of many chronic diseases and conditions, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression.
Lack of sleep is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, according to research. Specifically, sleep duration and quality are predictors of hemoglobin A1c levels, an important indicator of blood sugar control. Recent research suggests that optimizing sleep duration and quality may be an important tool for improving blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.1.
People with sleep apnea are at risk for many cardiovascular diseases. It has been found that high blood pressure, stroke, coronary heart disease, and irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias) are more common among people with sleep disorders than their peers without sleep disorders. Similarly, sleep apnea and atherosclerosis share physiological characteristics, suggesting that sleep apnea is an important predictor of cardiovascular disease.2
Laboratory studies have found that short sleep leads to metabolic changes that may be linked to obesity. A community-based epidemiological study found a link between short sleep duration and overweight. This association has been reported in all age groups, but is particularly pronounced in children. Sleep during childhood and adolescence is particularly important for brain development, and insufficient sleep in adolescents is thought to negatively affect the function of the hypothalamus, a part of the brain that regulates appetite and energy expenditure.3
The relationship between sleep and depression is complex. Although sleep disturbances have long been considered an important symptom of depression, recent studies have shown that depression symptoms can decrease after sleep apnea is effectively treated and adequate sleep is restored. The relationship between sleep and depression suggests the importance of assessing sleep adequacy in people with depression and monitoring depressive symptoms in people with sleep disorders. 4, 5
Knutson KL, Ryden AM, Mander VA, Van Cauter E. Role of sleep duration and quality in risk and severity of type 2 diabetes. Arch Intern Med 2006;166:1768–1764.
Kasasbeh E, Chi DS, Krishnaswamy G. Inflammatory aspects of sleep apnea and their cardiovascular consequences. Southern Med J 2006;99:58–67.
Taheri S. The link between short sleep duration and obesity: more sleep is recommended to prevent obesity. Arch Dis Child 2006;91:881–884.
Zimmerman M, McGlinchey JB, Young D, Chelminski I. Diagnosing major depressive disorder I: Psychometric evaluation of DSM-IV symptom criteria. J Nerv Ment Dis 2006;194:158–163.
Schwartz DJ, Kohler WC, Karatinos G. Depressive symptoms in patients with sleep apnea can be treated with continuous positive airway pressure. Chest 2005;128:1304–1306.