Diabetes Self-Management Blog

A recent study has found that sleeping fewer than six hours a night may triple a person’s risk of developing incident-impaired fasting glucose (IFG), a condition that leads to Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. An estimated 24 million people in the United States are living with Type 2 diabetes, while approximately 16 million Americans have heart disease.

Researchers from Warwick Medical School and the State University of New York, Buffalo, looked at six years of data collected from 1,455 people in the Western New York Health Study. The participants were all between 35 and 79 years old and did not have diabetes or heart disease at the start of the study; they had completed questionnaires on their sleeping patterns and general health, as well as undergoing a clinical examination. The researchers used this information to look at the associations between the participants’ self-reported sleep duration and incident-impaired fasting glucose, or elevated fasting blood glucose levels.

According to lead study author Saverio Stranges, MD, PhD, “We found that short sleep — less than six hours — was associated with a significant, three-fold increased likelihood of developing IFG compared to people who got an average of six to eight hours sleep a night… More research is needed, but our study does suggest a very strong correlation between lack of sleep and Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.”

This is not the first study to suggest an association between sleep and diabetes. Previous research has indicated that short sleep increases the levels of ghrelin, an appetite-stimulating hormone, and can decrease glucose tolerance and stimulate production of the stress hormone cortisol. Additionally, people who have sleep apnea are more than twice as likely as those who don’t to have diabetes, and 50% of men with Type 2 diabetes have sleep apnea.

To learn more about the research, read the article “Short Sleepers at Higher Risk of Type 2 Diabetes and Heart Disease, Study Finds” or see the study’s abstract in the journal Annals of Epidemiology. And for tips on getting a good night’s sleep, check out this article by nurse David Spero.

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