Napping and Diabetes Risk

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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  • Khalid

    That is frightening !

    in my country (Saudi Arabia), about 1/4 of the population are diabetic, and napping is as important as night sleep due to hot weather. So, I can see that there might be a link between diabetes and napping! but the question again , is it the main factor ? I don’t think so.

  • Anonymous

    I would think that the results would be more compelling if naps were not part of the regular culture of the participants. Here they are looking at people who already nap on a regular basis, and they either have diabetes or they don’t. I suppose if the prevalence is significantly higher in this culture, there may be some correlation. Otherwise, I don’t really see the relevance.

  • Judy K

    I would have to see a lot more detail to put any kind of faith in the results you are reporting from this Chinese study. I’m afraid that putting this kind of information on a blog entry creates fear in people with diabetes and shouldn’t be given out as a generalized statement. Napping is bad for people with diabetes PWD, not diabetics.

  • linda

    Maybe people who take long naps do not exercise.

  • Still Too Fat

    I have to wonder about the old chicken/egg paradox. Does napping increase susceptibility to diabetes or does the fatigue associated with diabetes make one more inclined to nap?

  • Lisa

    This looked scary, but look at the study results: “Type 2 diabetes was identified in 13.5 percent of the sample and was more prevalent in people who reported napping daily (15.1 percent) and in those who napped four to six times per week (14.7 percent).”

    So there’s a 1.6% difference in the prevalence of diabetes between the general sample and those who napped daily. Perhaps they just didn’t control adequately for other factors that would contribute to longer naps, etc. It strikes me as a classic case of “Correlation Does Not Equal Causation,” but, yes, further research is necessary.

  • Gregory Schwartz

    First the experts tell us that a short “power nap” every day will keep us alert and more energized. Since we reach our peak energy level around noon, then by 3pm, the batteries start to poop-out. So, it makes sense that a short power nap around 2pm would be ideal. Now, the experts tell us that a daily nap will increase the risk of DM 2. Don’t eat fish, eat less red meat, put more fish in your diet, eggs will clog your arteries, chocolate is good for you, eggs have a different type of cholesterol and are safe to eat every day, chocolate is full of sugar and caffeine and will rot your teeth, drink more milk because it’s full of calcium and will prevent osteoporosis, cook that steak well-done or you will get food poisoning, milk is full of cholesterol and will clog your arteries, fish is full of mercury and other poisons and is toxic for children and older adults…..The list is endless!!!!!! I QUIT!!!!!

  • Janet Jensen

    The body “renews and repairs” during sleep, at least at night, so napping sounds fine, if one needs it. Many don’t, and I didn’t but now have diabetes and get tired more. Blood sugar goes down when I sleep well an entire night, but when sleep disorders and frequent awakening at night, sugar is up in am. Think the study needs a big review.

  • Sam

    I don’t believe that naps pose a diabetes risk! I bet that the “frequent nappers” have poor night-time sleep, possibly sleep apnea, and are not using CPAP machine. Diabetes is a rapidly growing problem in China and not well-diagnosed yet because many people do not use their limited money to go to doctors unless they are dying.

    Poor quality can cause frequent napping and raise blood sugar and increase blood glucose level. This study does not sound fully considered and does not take all the factors into account. It sounds like the Chinese wanted a study to say that napping is bad for you so they can get more productivity. This study has some weak links.

  • Skip Meehan

    Ditto! Gregory Schwartz summed up this article perfectly!

  • Sal Lo Strappo

    Is there a slight descrepency between taking naps daily as opposed to 4 to 6 times a week? In the following the higher percentage of diabetes is in the 28%, which is the napping 4 to 6 times a week as opposed to 36% in the daily naps??????

    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.

  • Tia

    This diabetes stuff is making crazy! I can’t take it anymore! The studies I read about in this web site seem… weird… and I’m not reading them anymore! If I can keep my A1C levels 7 or under I’m a happy girl and that’s all I care about. I’m eating what I damn well please but in moderation, and taking my medicine and when I’m tied, I’m taking a flipping nap.

  • Dick

    Ditto again for Gregory Schwartz. And another ditto for Tia.

  • Harry…………………….

    I wake up to nap!!!

  • kathy

    that’s absolutely ridiculous! napping does not cause diabetes. i’d rather say ppl w/diabets are more likely to take naps. that’s like what came first the chicken or the egg…lol

  • marc

    I think somehow they are missing the obvious. As a type 2 diabetic I can vouch for the fact that people with type 2 nap more frequently because the usually elevated blood sugar, especially after a meal, can sometimes,but not always, force you into a stuporific state and hence…..the nap!
    Low to normal sugar does not usually force you int a napping state, but high sugar does.I wasn’t a type 2 in college over 40 years ago, but every evening, after dinner, i zoned into a trance-like state for about 10-15 minutes in the library until I came out of it and started to study. At my age now (62), I’ve learned not to eat many carbs before I go on a relatively long drive because of the danger of zoning out.

    I think it’s really a bunch of baloney that more naps (and hence more REST!)bring on type 2. The more rest, the better.

  • granny Pat

    This is a bunch of hooey. Nap if you are tired.

  • John Bell

    So the purpose of publishing this article is…? It would be good if articles were actually helpful rather than just speculation based on one study. Does napping lead to diabetes? Oh, sorry, we don’t really know but we thought we’d say it does in a big headline and tell you it does in an article before we add, at the very end, that we really don’t know.

  • John Mc

    What about type 2 folks on Metformin. Vitamin B12 deficiency. That causes drowsiness also.

  • Suzanne

    They don’t mention the timing of their meals in relationship to their naps. I’m sure it’s probably not good to eat and then lay down…

  • Karen

    John Mc — Good point re: Metformin and B12 deficiency. I take a daily sublingual supplement of B12 along w/my B-100 supplement. It’s so vitally important to be aware of how some meds sap nutrients from our bodies and can cause harm. Ex. those on statins need to supplement w/CoQ10 which statins sap from our systems. A clinical pharmacist can tell you which nutrients are compromised by whatever drugs you are on.

  • deBee

    Type 2 Diabetes causes frequent urination during the night, which interrups the sleep cycle. I know that I may get up 2-3 times per night. I exercise regularly and have other medical issues, so I do get fagigued. Thus, I often need a nap the next day to “catch up”.

  • karen

    i feel that the napping is from the diabetes as i did not nap before the diabetes. well, once in awhile. and i did not start to do so till a few years ago. it bothered me to it all the time. sometimes, it hits me and i have to take a nap or fall down, if you get what i mean. i don’t like it very well.

  • Sandy

    Kudos to Gregory! I agree with him. I am constantly confused with what I hear and read.. do this, no don’t do that. This is good , one week later it’s bad. I think it’s a case of damned if we do, damned if we don’t.

  • Jim Fox

    A nap is the effect not the cause.I exercise,walk
    eat lunch,nap,period.I maintain under 7 hba1c.

  • Eugene Gaudreau

    Chinese Philosophy:

    When thirsty, drink;
    when hungry, eat;
    when tired, sleep.

    Of course, the quality of the food or beverage will either energize you or sap your energy.

    The quality of your sleep will leave you well rested or very tired.

    Many cultures have a mid-day nap built into their schedules and it makes them more balanced and productive in the long run.

    Here in the USA, we are a culture that eats and drinks in our cars at high speed, eat lunch tied to our desks, woof our food in large gulps, eat in front of TVs, worry about stupid studies we have no control over, and then wonder why our health is likely the worst in the “civilized” world.

    There are many “holes” in this flawed study. I would venture to guess that as the Chinese people begin to adopt “western ways”, drink Coke or Pepsi, or other sweet carbonated beverages, and eat on the run, they will start to suffer from the same kinds of diseases that prevail here.

    Slow down a bit; enjoy your life; reduce your stress. That will go a long way toward true success in life.


  • Donna

    I have type 2, and may have to go on insulin, since the past month I have tested 8.2…. not good. However, I have had 4 injections (in the past 2 months)of either steriods or cortozonefor back pain following surgery a few years have been on three different antibiotics for virus infection, throat and lungs… All this definitely has to affect the glucose levels. I average around 150 to 160 daily from my testing over the past two months which is high for me, soI attribute this to the injections and meds. I never nap during the day, can’t really sleep, but do stretch out for back pain relief for about 15 minutes. My husband also a diabetic, oral meds like me, sleeps everyday for a good hour, and still falls asleep easily at night. His glucose measures well under 120 daily. So I really don’t think sleep has a lot to do with causing diabetes, or inhibiting it either. Rest when weary, especially after 75 is normal.

  • Dolores Richardson

    I am like everyone else, we get tired hearing this and that and they don’t know what they are talking about. If you are a diabetic when you eat carbs or a bigger meal you will drop off. Sometimes I feel tired and I go to sleep in the chair and don’t realize I did, untill I wake up after 10 minutes and missed my show I was watching. But I do not believe that taking naps gives you diabetes. I never did takes naps before I had diabetes, If I stay active I don’t get sleepy. But at 78 years old, can’t get too active.
    So I do what I want to do, eat what I want to eat and as they say, LET THE DEVIL TAKE THE HIND late to worry about now.God Bless.

  • GDC

    That’s a pretty tenuous causal connection. I also don’t see anything here that indicates that napping itself is dangerous for people who have (already) been diagnosed with diabetes.

    That said, sleep apnea should not go untreated for a multitude of reasons, and this would be one more.

  • Nancy Hentsch-Jacobson

    If I didnt take a nap once in awhile or when I feel as I need it, I would be on my way to the funny farm. I have a very ill husband who I am taking care of as well as my self. Its good to find out new findings but sometime common sense should be the guide. I never took one when I was young when I probably should have. I now have the sense to rest when needed.

  • Erin

    I agree with what Jim Fox, when he said, “A nap is the effect not the cause.”

    There are diseases and conditions that seem to have copycat symptoms and/or it can be a vicious cycle how one causes one, and that one causes yet another or back to the first one, and on and on it goes. No matter what the problem it seems to all lead back to our need (for most of us) to take better care of ourselves. Exercise seems to be the most important factor in regulating our blood sugar and circulating oxygen to tissue so we don’t lose limbs. Don’t like that word exercise, then do something you do like to do. Dance to the music-what fun! Talk and walk with a friend. It’s amazing how we forget about the walking part when we’re doing the talking part with a friend. Do you like telling or hearing jokes? Laughing is a great exercise-lots of oxygen flowing from the heart to the brain. Like teasing people? Do something (fun, not mean) to get them to run after you-make it fun then you’ll want to do it longer and more often!! Be creative!

    Of course, there’s the food thing too, right? We need food to live. So we need to eat the “bad foods” in moderation, but more importantly we need to eat the good foods; otherwise, we’re starving our bodies of the nutrients to function properly. Drinking lots of water is also a must for many reasons, but mostly in hydrating organs and bodily functions to maintain healthy systems. Remember most of what goes in needs to serve a purpose of feeding/hydrating or helping to elimatinate waste. I try to make myself drink that half glass of water BEFORE before each cup of coffee in the morning(which is a dehydrator. We need twice the water to make up for the coffee on top of our regular water supply). I try to eat my broccoli (put melted cheese on it if you’re not a big fan ;)BEFORE eating the other stuff on my plate. I’ll eat an apple BEFORE I eat whatever else I like better. Both water and fiberous foods help us to digest and excrete waste. Thus we are able to function, are healthier, and FEEL better! Now that’s a much better cycle than what was described above when we don’t take care of ourselves. Just try it. First the water then the coffee. First the fruit/vegtables then the “whatever you crave.” Doing this not only gets the good stuff in, it also helps us to feel fuller and not eat as much of the not so good stuff. =) No deprivation, yet nutrients go in! =)

  • Keen C.

    I think everyone’s body is different. Napping need is different for esch individual. I seldom feel tired during the day but my husband would be refreshed with a 10 minute nap. Napping would leave me still tired when I got up. I am a big believer in genetics and you are what you are because of your genes. I also found my fear of insulin was unfounded with the new inulin pens. But I also found out that Insulin puts weight on you. Guess you can’t have everything. I do think quality sleep determines if you are tired daily (getting up at night is a problem if you can’t get back to sleep easily).

  • pat

    Being that I am already diabetic I think I will keep napping when I feel the need. You can not get what you already have.

  • Harriet C.

    I have been a Diabetic for about 15yrs now, and raised 5 Sons, if I didn’t nap when I could back then I wouldn’t have been able to coupe, they were all born within 5yrs, no realiable birth control back then. Both my parents napped, one developed Diabetis, her parent had it too, and my Father did not and no one as far as I know had it either. One thing I am courious about is sleep Apnea, I was diognosed with it and given the mask, which I cannot use, but told by some one, that I was better off not using it anyway, because it made your lungs lazy, that people died about two yrs. after being on it. Any advice about it?

  • John

    I am 74 yrs young. I have had type 2 for several years, after two tours in Viet Nam.
    I also have obstructive sleep apnea and am on a CPAP machine at night.
    If I eat a big meal and sit in my recliner, I also drop off to sleep for a short period.
    Both the diabetes and the sleep apnea showed up about the same time.

  • John

    Harriet C.
    Talk to your sleep therapist. There are several types of masks. Find one you can use and you will feel soooo much better.
    You have to stay with it for a while and get used to it.

  • Ben Koshkin

    Scary thoughts.

    Ben Koshkin

  • Mia

    I was recently diagnosed with Type 2 and started Metformin once a day. I am forced to take a nap at least once a day…can’t stay awake. (sometimes twice a day)…even after a good night’s sleep. I must be eating the wrong things in the morning or whenever. I’m working on that. What can I eat to REVERSE the sleepiness or discourage it?
    Breakfast is usually a banana and a bran cereal with almond slivers with lactose free milk.
    Love other suggestions. Hard to get into a new routine with food. Thanks.

  • Mia

    Well, here it is ‘breakfast time’, again. I think, today, I’ll have time to make an egg and a piece of rye toast and a banana. I sure hope that doesn’t put me back to sleep within the hour. I have so much to do. I sure hope to hear from someone who might know how to prevent it…or how to reverse it once it’s too late and I’m moving to ‘horizontal’. I just cannot afford to sleep all day and it’s so troubling. Thank you in advance.

  • Mia

    I guess people don’t come here quite so often, so I’ll be patient..and keep trying to find the right things to eat. I just have to stop sleeping somehow. I’m almoset afraid to eat when I wake in the morning (or afternoon) and sometimes my hands shake. I do I have to have better control or stop. I know I need some suggestions. I’ll be patient.

  • Lesley Clagett

    I don’t get into this reading of articles very often so I know I am a bit behind the times, but I must say that just like Hariet C posted in April, I am a T2 with sleep apnea and tried for months to adjust to sleeping with a CPAP machine, but had to give up on it. I wasn’t getting any more sleep with it than without, maybe even less. I am lucky if I get 3 to 5 hours interminant sleep a night, but seem to do OK with that. Now I have read that I could be in line for a heart attack because of the lack of sleep…I am not going to read any more articles they stress me out which elevates my blood sugar, so can’t win for losing. I will just plod along doing the best I can to keep my sugar down with meds and doctors advice. Sign me throwing away my articles.

  • Ken

    I am a 66 year old with Type 2 Diabetes and Sleep Apnea (CPAP & O2 night only). I can sometimes go the whole day without a nap…but not usually. I go to bed usually at 9 PM. However, oft times I almost feel like I am gonna fall over and sleep. I can go up to bed and fire up the O2 concentrator and CPAP and take a 20-30 minute nap. Hardly ever, does it take longer and I am up and at em.

    The Chinese study is flawed in that it admits that the people DO take naps anyway as a mater of routine, so how can they corellate the Pre and Post info on Naps/Diabetes/APNEA?

    I really do wish they would find out WHY we get so tired. I mean, I am not pushing a truck around town all day…and by the same token, I do not sit and watch TV all day either. In the past 6 months I have replaced three engines in vehicles and did a leaking head gasket in another.

    I am tired of being tired though.

  • Karen

    Maybe these people are napping so much because they’re crashing from sugar/carbohydrate highs. I think that like every other mammal, people were meant to nap. Animals don’t get dm2 unless they eat a bunch of sugar and/or processed foods. I rise very early, take a noontime nap and go to bed in relation to the time that I rise, allowing for 7.5 hours of sleep. I am adamant about having my nap – I thoroughly enjoy being rested, happy and productive during the afternoon and evening hours – and manage to get in some really serious exercise time BECAUSE of my naps. I do not have diabetes, but I know plenty of people that don’t nap that DO, so what does that tell me about your study? It’s irresponsible to make these kinds of claims without the benefit of weighing all factors like diet and exercise.

  • WIlliam Cope

    I have type 2 diabetes and sleep apnea. I watch the mid day news and a soap show after eating lunch. I usually take a power nap after the soap
    is over. When I wake up I’m really hungry. What is the reason for being hungry since I had lunch an hour and half earlier.