PhotoWe recently reported how poor sleeping habits could lead to an increased risk of diabetes in men, but new findings suggest that there are additional consequences that can affect everyone.

Researchers at the Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology at the University of California have found that getting too much or too little sleep can increase markers for inflammation, a serious health concern.

“It is important to highlight that both too much and too little sleep appears to be associated with inflammation, a process that contributes to depression as well as many medical illnesses,” said Dr. John Krystal.

Higher risk of inflammation

Experts have long suspected that poor sleeping habits contributed to medical problems with inflammation. Prior studies have, for example, found associations between sleeping disorders, such as insomnia, and increased risk of inflammatory disease. Other adverse health conditions, like hypertension and type 2 diabetes, have also been connected.

In this study, the researchers examined information on over 50,000 people who had participated in other clinical studies. In order to gauge indicators of inflammation, they looked at levels of CRP and IL-6 in the body; high levels of each of these factors would indicate high levels of inflammation.

Additionally, the researchers checked records to assess how much sleep each participant was getting. After analyzing the information, they found that participants who had regularly interrupted sleep, insomnia, or long sleep durations (over 8 hours) had higher levels of CRP and IL-6 compared to those who slept normally (7-8 hours per night).

Assessing risk

The researchers believe that their findings should change how the medical community assesses risk with sleeping disorders. One researcher, Michael Irwin, believes that these kinds of problems should be regarded as behavioral risk factors for inflammation.

Irwin also states that having targeted therapies that address sleep behavior may go a long way towards reducing risk for inflammation. “Together with diet and physical activity, sleep health represents a third component in the promotion of health-span,” he said.

The full study has been published in the journal Biological Psychiatry

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