Ottawa·In Depth

Lack of sleep can lead to obesity, heart problems

Two Ottawa-based sleep doctors are sounding the alarm about the serious health consequences of sleep deprivation.

Ottawa doctor says sleeping less than 6 hours a night can also lead to performance errors

Sleepless in Ottawa

9 years ago
Duration 3:40
Sleep deprivation is a more serious health issue than we realize, according to several Ottawa sleep doctors.

Two Ottawa-based sleep doctors are sounding the alarm about the consequences of sleep deprivation.

Dr. Elliott Lee, a sleep specialist based at Ottawa's Royal Mental Health Centre, said research indicates people who sleep fewer than six hours a day function like individuals who have have a blood alcohol level of 0.05.

"People don't realize how impaired they are when they are sleep deprived," he said.

Lee said this is concerning considering the increased number of people who sacrifice sleep to keep up with their lives.

In 2010, Statistics Canada found 46 per cent of Canadians cut into the time they spend sleeping in order to complete other activities.

But Lee said the consequences can be devastating.

"We know that the effects of sleep deprivation do not discriminate based on sex, intelligence, height, gender, fitness," Lee said. "All of us are subject to the effects of sleep deprivation."

Lee said less sleep can have drastic long-term effects on the mind and body.

"Everything from cardiovascular disease to an increase risk of car accidents, work performance errors,  more fatigue during the day, even obesity if you can believe it," Lee said.

Lee said a lack of sleep can also contribute to performance errors and cognitive abilities.

Sleep deprivation linked to obesity

Dr. Jean-Philippe Chaput, an obesity specialist based at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario, said there is a strong link between sleep and body weight.

Dr. Elliott Lee, a sleep specialist, treats patients with sleep disorders at The Royal Mental Health Centre in Ottawa. (CBC)
"We know that lack of sleep causes weight gain in kids, in adults," Chaput said.

Chaput said people who sleep less to tend to eat more and be more inactive compared to those who sleep more.

His group recently conducted a study looking at all of the factors that contributed to weight gain and found that, even factoring for food intake and exercise, lack of sleep remained the number one factor.

Chaput said adults are encouraged to sleep between seven to eight hours a night, while children are encouraged to sleep for 10 hours in order to get a full rest.

"When we sleep below that, it's associated with weight gain," he said.

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