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Lack of Sleep Heightens Diabetes Risk

A recent study suggests that “short-sleepers” are more prone to develop blood sugar abnormality that may lead to type 2 diabetes.

Presented at the American Heart Association’s annual conference on cardiovascular disease epidemiology and prevention, researchers said that people who often sleep only six hours a night or less have a higher risk of developing impaired fasting glucose.

Lisa Rafaelson, PhD, lead author of the study, said that the study proved the link of inadequate sleep to adverse health issues. “Sleep should be assessed in the clinical setting as part of well-care visits throughout the life cycle,” she said. Rafaelson is also a National Research Service Award fellow and research assistant professor at the University at Buffalo in New York.

With a matched, nested case-control study, Rafaelson’s team did a six-year study from 1,455 participants. The team identified that 91 of its participants with fasting blood glucose levels of less than 100 mg/dL during baseline exams in 1996 had risen to between 100 mg/dL and 125 mg/dL in 2003.

These 91 participants were matched three to one with other 273 participants in a control group whose glucose levels were below 100 mg/dL at baseline. The groups were also matched according to gender, race/ethnicity and year of study enrollment.

Using the Stanford seven-day physical activity recall questionnaire, patients were required to fill out their sleep duration during the daily work week. Short sleepers (less than six hours), long sleepers (more than eight hours) and mid-sleepers (six to eight hours,) were then identified.

Other considerations included age, body mass index, glucose and insulin concentrations, heart rate, high blood pressure, family history of diabetes, and symptoms of depression. Investigators found a significantly increased risk of developing impaired fasting glucose among short-sleepers compared to the mid-sleepers.

“While previous studies have suggested that there may be many genes that each have a very small effect on the risk of diabetes, there is no known genetic predisposition to sleep disturbances that could explain our study’s results, especially in this limited sample size,” Rafaelson said. “It is more likely that pathways involving hormones and the nervous system are involved in the impaired-sleep/fasting glucose association.”

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