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Napping and Diabetes Risk

Diane Fennell

March 26, 2010

Frequent napping is associated with an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes in older adults, according to a new study published in the journal Sleep. This follows earlier research on sleep and diabetes establishing a link between obstructive sleep apnea and Type 2 diabetes and indicating that sleep deprivation can lead to impaired fasting glucose levels.

Researchers used data from 19,567 people recruited from 2003 to 2004 and 2005 to 2006 for the Guangzhou Biobank Cohort Study, based in Guangzhou, China. Participants included 13,972 women with an average age of 61.4 years and 5,595 men with an average age of 64.2 years. Their frequency of napping was self-reported by questionnaire and their Type 2 diabetes status was determined either via a fasting plasma glucose test or with self-reports of being diagnosed or treated by a doctor for the condition.

Roughly 14% of the participants were determined to have Type 2 diabetes. The data showed a 36% higher incidence of diabetes in people who reported napping four to six times a week and a 28% higher incidence of the condition in people who reported napping daily. Additionally, longer naps appeared to be more strongly associated with diabetes.

According to the study authors, napping is a social norm in China that generally begins in childhood. Lead author Neil Thomas, PhD, notes that in many Western countries, “a large proportion of those that nap are generally older or have other conditions that cause tiredness and create an urge to nap. The nap can therefore be a marker of disease.” But in this study, the association between napping and diabetes was unaltered even after analysis removed people with daytime tiredness or potential poor health from the results, suggesting the possibility that napping itself may increase the risk of diabetes. The investigators do note, however, that further research is needed to determine whether napping in fact plays a role in the development of Type 2 diabetes or if other factors are involved.

To learn more, read the article “Frequent Napping Linked to Increased Risk of Type 2 Diabetes in Older Adults” or see the study’s abstract in Sleep. And for tips on getting a good night’s sleep, check out the article “Getting the Sleep You Need.”



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