Non-communicable chronic diseases are on the rise globally: Diabetes affects 9 percent of all adults; heart disease affects 17.5 million people; obesity affects 642 million people; and depression affects 350 million people. All of these diseases are negatively impacted by a lack of sleep.
[Photo: Ms. Katie Viehmann-Wical]
Loma Linda University School of Public Health DrPH Health Education student Ms. Katie Viehmann-Wical, MPH recently published a literature review regarding sleep hormones in the Journal of Family Medicine.
“Lack of high quality and quantity sleep is overlooked as a chronic public health problem until the patient is diagnosed with diabetes, heart disease, depression, obesity, or high blood pressure,” said Ms. Viehmann-Wical. “The current average length of time that a patient has a sleep problem before it is diagnosed, or the patient is even asked about their sleep, is 8-12 years. It takes less than a week for a sleep deprived patient to be pre-diabetic.”
The article goes on to state that when an individual sleeps for less than seven hours a day, they are put at an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and frequent mental distress. The rise in the use of electronics before bed is also shown to correlate with decreased amounts of sleep. In evaluating the quantity of sleep, less than 5.5 hours of sleep is detrimental, and the ideal amount of hours asleep in bed is 8.5.
“A lot of dieticians are trying to help their patients with morbid obesity to lose weight [through nutrition], but until that patient sleeps well, their leptin and ghrelin hormone levels will be abnormal and the patient will be unable to lose weight and keep it off,” said Ms. Viehmann-Wical. “High quality and quantity sleep re-calibrates and normalizes leptin and ghrelin, thus enabling the morbidly obese patient to lose weight successfully.”
Ms. Viehmann-Wical says that balance is important in the treatment of patients.
“If we only focus on diet and exercise, we are sitting on a two-legged stool, whereas if we take a more balanced approach, we will give them a four-legged chair to sit on: focusing on sleep health, nutrition, physical movement/standing, and stress reduction.”
Ms. Viehmann-Wical is a doctoral student in health education. Her dissertation will be sleep-related, and she is currently working on a project to use sleep as a vital sign to identify sleep problems early and prevent, delay, or stabilize disease.