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Sleepless Nights Cause Liver Disease

Healthy Living Helps Lower Risk

Sleepless Nights Cause Liver Disease

By Sean Zucker –

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that at least a third of U.S. adults do not regularly receive the recommended amount of sleep, which is defined as seven or more hours a night. This troubling lack of quality sleep is associated with a slew of serious conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity and depression. Making matters even worse is recent data from the American Heart Association (AHA) that shows a massive uptick in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), something one study is now connecting with these sleepless habits.

In fact, the AHA has warned that NAFLD is nearing a crisis level. Specifically, the organization notes that currently, more than one in four adults struggle with the condition. The group notes there are two variations of NAFLD. One is characterized solely by the accumulation of fat in the liver and the other is distinguished by the presence of inflammation and scarring. Generally, excessive alcohol consumption can induce similar fat buildup and liver impairment, which means NAFLD serves as a way to distinguish between conditions triggered by alcohol abuse and those originating from other factors.

Perhaps even more worrisome is that NAFLD can go undiagnosed for years, potentially creating other issues along the way.

“Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is a common condition that is often hidden or missed in routine medical care. It is important to know about the condition and treat it early because it is a risk factor for chronic liver damage and cardiovascular disease,” P. Barton Duell, professor of medicine at Oregon Health and Science University, said as part of the AHA report.

Unfortunately, the cause of NAFLD isn’t always clear even for healthy individuals. “Although healthy living can help avert NAFLD in many individuals, some may develop NAFLD despite their best efforts,” Duell added.

This uncertainty inspired one study out of the Sungkyunkwan University School of Medicine in Seoul, South Korea. These Korean researchers examined the relationship between NAFLD and sleep patterns, shedding light on potential links between these two health factors. The study recruited 150 participants diagnosed with NAFLD and assessed their sleep patterns using validated sleep questionnaires and objective sleep monitoring devices. Volunteers also underwent comprehensive evaluations including liver function tests, imaging studies and assessments of their metabolic parameters.

The results revealed a significant association between poor sleep quality and the presence of NAFLD. Participants reporting shorter sleep durations, poorer sleep efficiency and more frequent nighttime awakenings demonstrated higher levels of liver enzymes and greater liver fat accumulation as detected by imaging studies. Beyond that, individuals with more severe sleep disturbances exhibited increased insulin resistance and dyslipidemia, which are metabolic factors commonly associated with NAFLD progression per the study.

Duell, in response, recommends maintaining a healthy lifestyle as the best means of lowering risk for NAFLD. “Part of the good news about managing NAFLD is that healthy eating, regular exercise and weight loss or avoiding weight gain are all valuable interventions to improve health in most of us, regardless of whether we have NAFLD,” he said.

An added bonus? Most of these healthy habits are also known to aid in improving sleep.





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