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February 3, 2015

Sleep Loss Affects Risk for Ulcerative Colitis

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If overall mortality, cardiovascular disease and cancer were not enough risks associated with chronic sleep loss, you can now add ulcerative colitis to the list as well.


A new research study published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, the journal of the American Gastroenterological Association, found individuals who lose out on the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep each night are more likely to develop this digestive disorder.


This study “Sleep Duration Affects Risk for Ulcerative Colitis: A Prospective Cohort Study” is based on an analysis of women enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) I since 1976 and NHS II since 1989. The findings linked sleep duration and risk of ulcerative colitis, independent of other risk factors.


It is not just too little sleep that causes trouble. Too much of it is an equally damaging culprit. Says noted lead researcher Ashwin N. Ananthakrishnan, M.D., of Massachusetts General Hospital, ““We found that less than six hours of sleep per day and more than nine hours of sleep per day are each associated with an increased risk of ulcerative colitis.”


An earlier study (also published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology in 2013) by Dr. Ananthakrishnan and his colleagues reported a two fold increase in risk of Crohn’s disease at six months of poor sleep quality.


Next time you think of mere chronic fatigue as a risk of poor sleep, pause to think again. Sleep disruption profoundly impacts our immune system, and we need to be aware of it. There is also a critical need for providers to routinely inquire and analyze sleep duration and quality as important parameters of health in patients with inflammatory bowel diseases.

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