Think you can get away with burning the midnight oil night after night? Think again. Recent research shows that if you don’t get enough high-quality sleep, you’ll be more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
According to a study from the University of Chicago Medical Center, people who do not get enough deep sleep (REM or “slow-wave” sleep) become less sensitive to insulin. This is the first study to offer evidence that links diabetes to lack of deep sleep. The study, published on Dec. 31, 2007 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, followed the sleeping patterns of healthy adults ages 21-30. The subjects in the study did not secrete as much insulin as they needed when deprived of deep sleep for just three nights. This, in turn, lowered their glucose tolerance, raising their risk for type 2 diabetes. According to the authors of the study, this lack of deep sleep has the same harmful effects on blood glucose levels as gaining 20 to 30 pounds.
As the body ages, it is normal for the amount of deep sleep to taper off. While a person in his or her 20s may get up to 100 minutes of REM sleep per night, a person in his or her 60s may only get 20 minutes of this restorative sleep. As life becomes busier, people who should be in the prime of health are sacrificing sleep to keep up with the demands of work, family, and other pursuits. As a consequence, they get less of the much-needed slow-wave sleep, leaving them vulnerable to an increased risk for type 2 diabetes. When combined with fast-food meals on the go and lack of time for exercise, this dearth of quality sleep could be causing thousands of people to develop diabetes years earlier than expected. Lack of sleep can also impair the body’s ability to fight off infection, a serious condition for people with diabetes.
The researchers in this study recommended that patients should improve the quality of their sleep in order to prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes. The average amount of sleep required per night for an adult is about 8 hours. Following a regular sleep schedule is likely the best way to ensure that you get the deep sleep you need to maintain optimum health.