According to a new study accepted for publication in The Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, the short sleep times experienced by many individuals may contribute to the development of insulin resistance and reduced glucose tolerance. This in turn may increase the long-term risk of diabetes for these poor sleepers.
One increasingly common aspect of the Western lifestyle is a night of poor sleep, which is often aggravated by physical inactivity and overeating. Many Americans sleep fewer than six hours each night and individuals who report such short sleep times have in previous studies demonstrated an increased risk of developing diabetes. This new study examined whether reduced sleep duration itself may increase the risk of developing diabetes when combined with physical inactivity and overeating, and you guessed it -- it does.
Researchers in this study subjected a group of healthy middle-aged men and women to two controlled 14-day periods of sedentary living with free access to food and 5.5 or 8.5 hour bedtimes. When the subjects had their bedtimes decreased from 8.5 hours to 5.5 hours they showed changes in their response to two common sugar tests, which were similar to those seen in people with an increased risk of developing diabetes.
“Our findings raise the possibility that when the unhealthy aspects of the Westernized lifestyle are combined with reduced sleep duration, this might contribute to the increased risk of many overweight and sedentary individuals developing diabetes,” said Plamen Penev, MD, PhD, of the University of Chicago, a senior author of the study.