A study published in the April edition of the American Journal of Physiology – Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology suggests that frequent disruptions in the sleep cycle (also known as circadian rhythm) can increase the risk of kidney and heart disease. (The study is not yet available online.)
Conducted by researchers from the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre at Toronto General Hospital, the study altered the internal biological clocks of rodent (hamster) models using external regulators (such as reversing light and dark periods) and found that the changes resulted in cardiomyopathy (damage and enlargement of the heart) and scarring of the kidney tubules.
Based on findings from this and several other previous studies, the researchers concluded that renewal of organ tissues likely occurs during sleep, suggesting that sleep disruption prevents this process from happening and results in damage to the organs.
The researchers note that these problems may be particularly acute among flight crews, truck drivers, and “graveyard” or other variable shift workers. In fact, while most studies of these populations have focused on the effects of sleep deprivation and concentration and performance, the latest study may help explain why such workers have higher rates of cardiovascular disease. With that being said, the study’s lead author suggests that such workers consider these findings when scheduling work time,” or at the very least “try to maintain a constant working schedule for one month or more [to allow] the body to readjust its clock to external cues.”
Don’t have an erratic work schedule? Unfortunately that doesn’t mean that you’re immune to sleep disruptions. A new baby (or just one that’s acting possessed as of late!), a stressful work project, or even just a few late nights in a row can throw your sleep schedule into a rut.
But, if there’s one tried and true tip for regulating your sleep pattern, its eschewing those weekend lie ins. Yes, it feels great to sleep ‘till noon, especially if you’ve had a rough week, but setting your alarm for just one hour beyond your usual wake up time will allow you to feel well rested without sending your body in to shock once Monday morning rolls around!
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