A new research review has strengthened claims that the biggest reason for most cases of sleep loss is lifestyle, as opposed to sleep conditions.
They claim that it is caused largely by the fast pace of modern living and the use of portable computers and gaming devices.
Disruption of the body's natural sleeping and waking cycle by shift work is also associated with chronic illness and early death, the German and Swiss authors point out.
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Experimental studies are starting to show a direct causal link between sleep loss and the body's ability to metabolise sugar, control food intake, and maintain energy balance, they argue in an article for the journal The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.
The scientists, led by Professor Bernd Shultes, from the eSwiss Medical and Surgical Centre in St Gallen, conclude: "These findings open up new strategies for targeted interventions aimed at the present epidemic of the metabolic syndrome and related diseases.
"Ongoing and future studies will show whether interventions to improve sleep duration and quality can prevent or even reverse adverse metabolic traits.
"Meanwhile, on the basis of existing evidence, health care professionals can be safely recommended to motivate their patients to enjoy sufficient sleep at the right time of day."