Getting a Good Night's Sleep May Lower Your Diabetes Risk

There's a correlation between lack of sleep and diabetes risk.
Can poor sleep boost your risk of developing diabetes? Maybe. A number of studies have linked poor sleep with a higher risk of diabetes, but researchers are still sorting out if one can cause the other or they're linked for some other reason.

Either way, getting better sleep is probably a good idea if you're at risk for diabetes (or even if you're not).

"It's not proven, but basic science shows that lack of sleep can lead to high blood pressure and increased weight, and these alone are risk factors for diabetes development," said Ronald Kramer, MD, the medical director of the Colorado Neurological Institute's Sleep Disorders Center in Englewood, Colo.

Some studies have suggested that sleep-deprived people start eating more calories, "so there's also that linkage in terms of increased weight," he says.

Disturbed sleep may promote insulin resistance
However, sleep disturbances may actually disrupt insulin regulation too. In a 2007 study, Esra Tasali, MD, of the University of Chicago, and colleagues prevented nine young men from entering a deep stage of sleep (known as slow-wave sleep), which is thought to be associated with hormonal changes that affect glucose.

For three nights the researchers used sounds, such as simulated knocks on a door, or body shakes to keep the men from getting slow-wave sleep while still not waking them up.

The subjects had a 25% drop in their insulin sensitivity (a loss of insulin sensitivity is a hallmark of type 2 diabetes). The researchers note that slow-wave sleep tends to decline with age and in the obese—two factors that are also linked to a greater risk of type 2 diabetes.

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Lead writer: Tania Haas
Last Updated: April 19, 2008

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