Categories: Client questions answered and Science.

The 7 May 2010 Dominion Post reported on recent research published in the journal Sleep and carried out by the British University of Warwick in conjunction with the Frederico II University Medical School in Naples that involved analysing 16 studies involving a total of 1.3 million people. The study gave results that the researchers claim to be “unequivocal evidence” of a link between sleep deprivation and premature death. They noted that people who slept for less than six hours a day were 12% more likely to die before age 65 than those who slept the recommended six to eight hours a night.

The researches also referred to previous research that showed that reduced sleep was associated with heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, type 2 diabetes and elevated LDL cholesterol levels.

The reason of course for these findings is that poor sleep causes and/or is caused by low melatonin levels plus the process of normal sleep involves spending time at various brainwave patterns at varying cycles
per second that are much lower than normal conscious brain activity. These brainwave states are critically important for body repair and the production and balance of various hormones responsible for normal health. E.g. research has shown that the ghrelin/leptin hormone balance that is responsible for feeling hunger and satisfaction is dependent on getting sufficient quality sleep. Hence the observation that poor sleep can cause obesity.

As far as I am aware the researchers looked solely at the length of sleep. The major factor is the quality
of sleep, people with high carbohydrate intake and resulting high insulin levels have decreased melatonin release (among a lot of other undesirable effects). Melatonin is critically associated with quality of sleep,
low melatonin levels equal poor quality sleep. Melatonin deficiency has been associated with all the above conditions and many more including cancer. I believe that the results of the surveys simply show that the majority of participants in the groups with a prevalence of disease and premature death had, among other things, low melatonin levels. This is mostly due to diet but also constant late nights, “burning the candle at both ends,” overexposure to light at night or other possible reasons. Ironically the research also showed that people who slept more than 9 hours a day were 30% more likely to die early. Low melatonin levels and other factors related to high carbohydrate diet can cause longer poor quality sleep.

The good news is the Zone Nutrition increases melatonin levels with deep quality sleep an expected outcome. Incidentally because high melatonin enables high quality of sleep, sleep time is actually reduced. It is more about quality rather than quantity.

All this thought about sleep reminds me of a verse from my favourite poem, Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

“Oh sleep! it is a gentle thing,
Beloved from pole to pole!
To Mary Queen the praise be given! She sent the gentle sleep from heaven, That slid into my soul”.