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Surrey wakes up to problems of sleep deprivation

Researchers at the University of Surrey are investigating the effects of sleep deprivation on metabolic and cardiovascular function and are looking for volunteers to take part in a study. To be eligible, participants must be male shift workers or male non shift workers aged between 25-45 years-old.

In today’s 24/7 society, work and social obligations can adversely affect the timing, duration and quality of sleep. One such demand resulting from today’s society is the need for shift work.

The aim of this study is to investigate the effect of one night of total sleep deprivation, as is experienced during the first night of a night shift, on a range of metabolic, inflammatory and cardiovascular and neurobehavioural responses. The responses of shift workers will be compared to those on non shift workers. It is hoped that valuable knowledge will be gained, in particular for those who skip a night’s sleep, for instance, night shift workers.

Previous research has indicated that doing shift work is not without risk and it has been shown to have consequences for the health and wellbeing of an individual, both acutely and in the long term. Sleep deprivation during a night shift can acutely decrease alertness and performance. Doing shift work for a number of years has, for example, been associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). An increased risk of developing CVD has, in part, been shown to be due to elevation of hormone and lipid responses, and is related to changes in the inflammatory system.

Susceptibility to the effects of sleep deprivation is also likely to differ between people. These differences may be a result of the amount of shift work done in the past, lifestyle, sleep patterns and genetics.

Sophie Wehrens, the lead researcher comments: “Today’s 24/7 society puts a very high pressure on people’s sleep patterns. Many people realise this may affect their health, but we do not know exactly how. In addition, it is obvious that not everyone responds in the same way to skipping a night’s sleep. We are therefore very interested to investigate responses to sleep deprivation in the well controlled conditions of our lab. This hopefully will enable us to characterise these responses and to understand the mechanisms underlying them.”

Peter La | alfa
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