(NaturalHealt’h365) Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) – in which excess deposits of fat accumulate in the livers of people who don’t normally drink to excess – has progressed from being a somewhat uncommon condition to being widespread throughout the country. In fact, some experts estimate that a shocking 25 to 30 percent of American adults have NAFLD (as do roughly the same percent of the population in other developed nations around the world). So what does fatty liver disease have to do with poor sleep habits?
A new study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism illustrates a startling link between poor sleep and the risk of NAFLD. With millions of Americans reporting restless sleep and sleep apnea, this is truly an alarming finding.
To see how the quality of your sleep can put you at a HIGHER risk of fatty liver disease – and to learn what to do about it – keep reading…
Three specific sleep behaviors are associated with fatty liver disease
In a cross-sectional study involving over 5,000 middle-aged and elderly Chinese participants with metabolic-dysfunction fatty liver disease (another name for NAFLD), researchers set out to explore the relationship between sleep behaviors and fatty liver disease risk and also to evaluate the influence of obesity on sleep quality and NAFLD.
The team found that three sleep behaviors in particular – late bedtime, snoring, and daytime napping for over 30 minutes – were linked with heightened risk. Daytime napping caused an increase in the risk by 17 percent, late bedtime raised the risk by 37 percent, and snoring caused the risk to soar by 59 percent.
WARNING: Watch out for the “double whammy” that doubles your risk of disease
Study participants who fared the worst, meaning they had the highest risk of NAFLD, were those who had disturbed sleep at night and took prolonged daytime naps to compensate. This combination of factors caused the risk of metabolic-dysfunction fatty liver disease to more than double! The team also found that people with a sedentary lifestyle and central obesity, or excessive abdominal fat, experienced more prominent adverse effects from poor sleep quality than those who weren’t sedentary and obese.
The good news was that even modest improvements in sleep quality could lead to lowered NAFLD risk, especially in those with unhealthy lifestyles. According to study leader Yan Liu, Ph.D., a researcher at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China, “Our study found a moderate improvement in sleep quality was related to a 29 percent reduction in the risk for fatty liver disease.” Cutting your risk of fatty liver disease by almost a third while enjoying better sleep at the same time is a definite win/win.
Fatty liver disease can lead to grave consequences
While simple, uncomplicated cases of NAFLD can be mild (in fact, many people are unaware that they have it), it can sometimes progress to a condition known as nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, or NASH – in which the liver is not only fatty but inflamed. Untreated steatohepatitis can, in turn, progress to serious conditions, including cirrhosis (irreversible scarring), liver cancer, liver failure, and even death.
Fortunately, most stages of liver disease can be reversed with lifestyle changes, such as losing weight and making healthier dietary choices. The new study suggests that we can add “getting better sleep” to the list of natural interventions for fatty liver disease.
Improve sleep quality naturally with good sleep hygiene
If you are looking to improve your sleep, experts have two words for you: sleep hygiene. In other words, the key is to form good habits that lead to restful slumber while breaking habits that rob you of rest. Good habits include maintaining a consistent sleep schedule by going to sleep and waking up at the same time and incorporating relaxing bedtime routines – such as listening to calming music, meditating, taking warm baths or showers, and drinking herbal tea. You can also use soothing essential oils such as lavender.
Experts also advise sleeping in a quiet, dark, cool room (keep the temperature below 70 degrees) with TVs, laptops, and cell phones off. Combat any “light leakage” with blackout blinds or a sleep mask. Finally, a droning fan or “white noise” machine may be the game-changer that tips you towards a restful slumber.
Habits to avoid include taking prolonged naps in the daytime. If you must nap, limit the time to no more than half an hour a day. Say “no” to spicy, rich, large meals and sugary snacks within three hours of bedtime. (Caffeinated beverages and alcohol before bed won’t do your sleep any favors, either). By the way, nutritionists say that a daytime diet conducive to sleep includes high-quality protein, antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats from avocados, nuts, and seeds.
In addition, you should refrain from vigorous activities within two hours of bedtime and “unplug” yourself at least an hour before retiring for the night. Bedtime is no time to tune into stimulating content, competitive social media, or controversial, frustrating political issues. Plus, the “blue light” from screens can interfere with the sleep/wake cycle, exacerbating sleep problems.
By using a few common-sense techniques to improve your sleep hygiene, you can be well on the way to a better night’s rest – and a healthier liver.
Sources for this article include:
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