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Risk of Ulcerative Colitis Impacted by Sleep

A new study says that people who sleep either more or less than the recommended amount have a greater risk for being diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. The research was conducted by Dr. Ashwin Ananthakrishnan, of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and were announced in a news release issued by the American Gastroenterological Association after having been published in the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology. The study found a correlation between incidence of the condition, which causes inflammation in the intestines, and sleeping either more or less than seven to eight hours per night. The quality of sleep also appears to be a factor.

According to Dr. Ananthakrishnan, “Both short and long durations of sleep have important health implications, and are associated with increased overall mortality, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Our findings indicate that ulcerative colitis may potentially be added to this list. 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."

The study utilized data that had been collected by both the Nurses' Health Study I in 1976 and the Nurses' Health Study II in 1989, which Dr. Ananthakrishnan said was chosen because the extended follow-up period that each study utilized allowed them to perform a detailed analysis of the link between sleep and the incidence of the condition. The researcher decided to pursue the investigation following a previous study that had revealed that six consecutive months of inferior sleep quality was was linked to a twofold increase in the risk of Crohn’s disease flare-ups. Crohn’s is another inflammatory bowel disease.

"All these data together support a growing recognition of the impact of sleep disruption on the immune system, and the need for providers to frequently inquire about sleep duration and quality as an important parameter of health in patients with inflammatory bowel diseases," Ananthakrishnan noted.

The study’s authors acknowledge that the study does not indicate a cause and effect relationship between sleep and ulcerative colitis, but is strictly suggestive of the notion that there may be a link between between the two. They also acknowledge certain weaknesses in the study, including the fact that quality and quality of sleep were self-reported rather than being measured using chronometers or other sleep monitoring technology, as well as the fact that the study’s participants were only women. Still, there is substantial evidence that sleep quality and quantity are closely related to inflammation in the body, and as such it has been positively linked to a number of other serious health conditions, including high blood pressure, risk of cardiovascular problems, risk of stroke, and diabetes 2. Inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease have also been determined to have genetic predispositions, so it might be useful for those already at risk or who have been diagnosed to pay special attention to the quality and quantity of sleep that they get.

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