lifestyle

A lack of sleep can make you more unsteady on your feet and affect balance, says new study


A poor night’s kip can make you more unsteady on your feet (Picture: Getty)

We all know how important a good night of sleep is for us.

Not getting enough shut-eye can impact our mood, behaviour and be associated with various health problems – but a recent study has found that being sleep deprived affects how we walk, too.

New research shows that gait – AKA, a person’s walking pattern – is impacted by sleep loss. More specifically, it can have a knock-on effect on an individual’s ability to walk with purpose, avoid obstacles and keep balance.

While scientists used to think that walking was a fully automated process, new findings shows this simply isn’t the case, and that you can, in fact, be unsteady on your feet after a poor night’s kip.

Published in Scientific Reports, the study looked at chronically sleep-starved college students at the University of São Paulo, who slept on average for around six hours a night. 

Half of the group pulled an all-nighter before they were all asked to take a treadmill test and step to the beat of a metronome.

Those who had been deprived of sleep were off-rhythm, missed beeps and, generally, performed worse. 

What’s more, students who had attempted to reduce their sleep deficit by snoozing in on weekends performed a bit better on the task.

However, this technique is not encouraged by experts, who stress that changing your regular sleep-wake time by 90 minutes, in either direction, can increase the risk of a heart attack or heart disease.



How much sleep should we be getting?

Experts say that healthy adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night.

Babies, young children, and teens need even more, to enable their growth and development.

Those over 65 should also get 7 to 8 hours per night.

Overall, the new research has given experts more to think about.

‘The concept of gait being only an automatic process is not the complete story,’ says the study’s author Hermano Krebs. ‘There’s a lot of influence coming from the brain.’

The findings also reiterate the need for adequate sleep – but particularly for those who work night shifts, where a change to walking and movement could be dangerous.

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Get in touch by emailing MetroLifestyleTeam@Metro.co.uk.


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