Lack of sleep is blamed on shift work, and night shifts in particular, and the use of smart phones and laptops in bed. Working on a computer at or shortly before bedtime is particularly bad for you as your melatonin levels are reduced. Melatonin is a hormone that indices sleepiness.
Research at Surrey University has shown that more than 700 genes – including those linked to immunity and inflammation – are altered when your sleep is reduced to less than six hours a day.
Middle-aged people are believed to particularly at risk because of increased work and family demands.
However Professor Jim Horne who established the Sleep Research Centre at Loughborough University is not convinced that there would be benefits from a campaign targeting sleep as planned by Public Health England.
He thinks it’s the quality not quantity of sleep that’s important and doesn’t believe that there is convincing evidence that we’re getting less sleep than our forefathers.
If you’ve already stopped smoking, are taking more exercise and cut down on the booze then getting more sleep is something else you can try.
UPDATE September 12 2015
The wrong amount of sleep can make you ill. Sleeping too much i.e. more than 9 hours a night, or too little i.e. fewer than 5 hours a night, can increase the deposits of calcium which clog up the coronary artery.
Women are at a greater risk of getting a lesion in this artery as a result of poor sleep than men.
The scientists who carried out the research on 29,000 people in South Korea, found that seven hours sleep was the optimal amount. “Inadequate sleep is a common problem and a likely source of poor health including visible signs of disease such as heart attack”
People who slept for more than 9 hours had 70% more calcium in their coronary artery than those who slept 7 hours. People who slept for less than 5 hours had 50% more.
The changes might be the result of the levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, throwing the body’s biochemistry out of balance.