WHAT NOBEL PRIZE-WINNERS CAN TELL US ABOUT SLEEP AND OUR HEALTH
This has been a week to celebrate for Nobel prize-winners Jeffrey Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael Young but an unpleasant wake-up call for those suffering from sleep deprivation. The prize-winners’ research shows that sleep, and sleeping well at night, are key to our health and wellbeing.
The biologists were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their work on circadian rhythms, or our inner body clock. Their experiments show that our bodies are innately programmed to follow 24-hour sleep-wake cycles based on the Earth’s rotations, i.e. whether it is light or dark outside.
The activities of cells in our bodies are in turn determined by this cycle, performing certain actions according to our body clock and the time of day.
THE CLOCK’S TICKING
Modern technology and the pressures of modern society mean that it is easy for us to ignore our body clock and the environment around us. It may be dark outside but we can easily stay awake for longer by switching on the lights. Shift work and long-distance flights turn our body clock on its head, meaning that biological processes such as our metabolism and the release of hormones are conducted at the wrong time of day, i.e. when we are awake instead of asleep.
Messing with this cycle can have huge implications for our long-term health. The research shows that long-term disruptions to our body clock, such as night-time sleep deprivation, lead to an increased risk of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and dementia.
LISTEN TO YOUR INNER TIMEKEEPER
So what can we do to ensure we follow our circadian rhythm more closely? The impact of the researchers’ findings on our body clock extends far beyond medical research.
Sports teams are employing sleep experts to advise on travel and training schedules and some countries are adapting the timing of the school day to the findings.
We can also get better aligned with our inner clock by listening to our body’s signals and the environment around us. Sleeping well at night is also key, so anything we can do to ensure we have a better night’s sleep will also be of great benefit—check out our sleep tips on this. As winter approaches, snuggle up and get the sleep your body is craving!
Sources: The 2017 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine - Press Release". Nobelprize.org. Nobel Media AB 2014. Web. 10 Oct 2017.<http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/2017/press.html>.'Western society is chronically sleep deprived': the importance of the body's clock” The Guardian. Web. 10 Oct 2017. <https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/oct/06/western-society-is-chronically-sleep-deprived-the-importance-of-the-bodys-clock>