- SUNDAY (HealthSCOUT) - If
you ignore your body's natural clock by working and playing at any time
of the day or night, you could set a time bomb for illness, injury and
even death, sleep experts say.
- "If you don't listen to your body, you will pay
the price," says Dr. Harvey Moldofsky, director of the Centre for
Sleep and Chronobiology at the University of Toronto.
- And the price of ignoring your natural sleep patterns
can range from aches and pains to heart disease to chronic fatigue syndrome.
A regular bedtime can be as important to your health as stopping smoking
or cutting back on saturated fat, says an article in the June 3 issue of
- Your biological clock, nestled in the hypothalamus region
of your brain, controls what time you eat and rest, the rhythmic surge
of hormones, changes in body temperature, immune system activity and a
host of other body functions.
- Different people have different sleep patterns. Some
are morning people while others are nocturnal creatures. Problems arise
when you ignore your natural body rhythms to meet the demands of work or
family, says the article.
- "People who restrict their sleep or are engaged
in shift work where sleep becomes fragmented and disturbed are at risk
for cardiovascular disease. This has been shown in nurses who have been
engaged in shift work over a long period of time. They show an increased
risk for heart attacks," Moldofsky says.
- Sleep debt can also contribute to depression, and lost
sleep creates dangers at work and on the roads, he says.
- "Sleep deprivation results in impairment in people's
capabilities to operate in their usual, expected way, and they would not
necessarily know that they are impaired," Moldofsky says.
- "There are a lot of those people in the industrialized
Western world who are restricting their sleep time, and consequently are
impaired in their thinking and their ability to remain alert, and this
could conceivably result in harm to themselves or others," Moldofsky
- Most people require roughly seven to eight hours of sleep
a night to stay alert through the day, and he says they should know the
warning signs when they're not getting enough sleep.
- "I think the most obvious is that they are aware
that they're tired, fatigued, their performance is impaired, they might
be irritable, they might be making a lot of mistakes and they might feel
they're becoming depressed," Moldofsky says.
- Evolution created our body clocks, says Jim Waterhouse,
a chronobiologist at John Moores University, Liverpool, England.
- "The whole of our physiology and of our chemistry
is made to make us work during the daytime and sleep at night," he
- "The clock does two things. It dichotomizes us between
daytime activity and nighttime inactivity, but also, and just as importantly,
it enables us to prepare for those switches," Waterhouse says.
- Your internal body clock can adjust to gradual changes
in daylight throughout the year, but it can't cope with the rapid-fire
changes of our modern lifestyles, he says.
- Waterhouse has a suggestion for those who work night
- "As a chronobiologist, the advice you give to a
person is on your days off, do not revert to normal living habits. Continue
to try and stay awake as much of the night as you can and continue to have
at least three to four hours' sleep during the daytime."
- What To Do
- For more information about sleep disorders and the dangers
of not getting enough sleep, go to the <http://www.utoronto.ca/csc/Centre
for Sleep and Chronobiology, or the <http://www.sleepfoundation.org/disorder.htmlNational
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