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Lack of Sleep Equals High Diabetes Risk

Sleep deprivation is found to be a major player in the development of insulin resistance and impaired glucose tolerance. This was found true when the team of Dr. Planem Penev conducted a clinical trial among 11 volunteers who slept for 5.5 and 8.5 hours. The study noted a significant increase in the glucose tolerance level and reduction in the values for insulin sensitivity.

In a randomized, crossover trial, the team of Dr. Penev from the University of Chicago observed volunteers for two weeks with shortened sleep schedule. When participants are restricted to 5.5 hours in bed each night for two weeks, they registered a 144 mg/dL on their glucose tolerance test. This is significantly high compared to the 132 mg/dL values when their bedtime was extended for 8.5 hours per night. In addition, the researchers also noted in their study that the values of insulin sensitivity were reduced at 3.3 compared to the 4.0 mU/L/min during normal sleep period.

In the study, the researchers also limited the daytime exercise of the participants and encouraged them to eat as much as they wanted. “These findings suggest that combining the adverse metabolic effects of Westernized lifestyles with chronically reduced sleep duration may increase the long-term risk of developing impaired glucose tolerance and type 2 diabetes,” Dr. Penev and colleagues wrote.

This supports several recent clinical studies that suggest a link between reduced sleep and type 2 diabetes. However, Dr. Penev and his colleagues noted that earlier prospective studies were limited in using dramatically restricted sleep—four hours a night or less as major variables. They also pose short study duration (less than a week), scant data on participants’ eating habits, and few or no participants in high-risk age groups as limitations of the previous studies, they said.

The researchers also noted an increase in body mass index and weight during the shortened-sleep phase—BMI by 0.7 points relative to the 8.5-hour bedtime, weight by 2.3 kg. “However, the researchers said that such changes are still within the normal physiological range and they are not conclusive of any clinical consequence for glucose and insulin metabolism,” the researchers clarified.

“Shortened sleep unmistakably affected glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity,” they said. “When part of a Western-like lifestyle, recurrent sleep restriction can also result in reduced insulin sensitivity,” they added. “Increased nighttime snacking as a consequence of later bedtimes could also be a factor for the metabolic effects rather than the shorter sleep duration. But it should be noted that total calorie consumption was similar under the two sleep conditions.”

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