People who sleep less than six hours each night or tend to wake up frequently are at higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes according to a new analysis published in the journal Sleep Medicine Reviews that compared different sleep behaviors related to insomnia, or difficulty falling or staying asleep.
Poor sleep or not getting enough sleep has long been linked to a higher risk of developing certain health problems, including obesity and hypertension (high blood pressure). But it hasn’t always been clear exactly what sleep problems or behaviors are linked to a higher risk of health problems. For example, many people who experience insomnia — difficulty falling or staying asleep — end up sleeping for a short duration during a typical night, while others may stay in bed longer and get a normal amount of sleep. What’s more, some people don’t experience insomnia but sleep less than is recommended due to habits, work or family obligations, or a sense that they don’t need as much sleep as is recommended. The latest analysis attempted to look separately at insomnia with short sleep duration, insomnia without short sleep duration, and short sleep duration without insomnia.
To get cutting-edge diabetes news, strategies for blood glucose management, nutrition tips, healthy recipes, and more delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our free newsletters!
Short sleep linked to health risks
The researchers performed a combined analysis, or meta-analysis, of 10 published studies that explored the relationship between sleep and type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and body-mass index (BMI, a measure of body weight that takes height into account). There was a huge range in the size of these studies, ranging from 30 to 4,994 participants. Overall, they found that insomnia with a short sleep duration — defined as six hours or less each night, or a “sleep efficiency” of less than 85% due to waking up at night — was linked to a 63% higher risk for type 2 diabetes and a 54% higher risk for hypertension, but no significant difference in the risk for a higher or lower BMI. No increased risk for these conditions was seen in people with insomnia with a normal sleep duration. When the researchers compared outcomes in people with or without insomnia who had a short sleep duration, no significant differences were observed — meaning that people were just as likely to have a higher risk for type 2 diabetes or hypertension if they didn’t sleep enough, even if they didn’t experience insomnia.
As noted in an article on the study at Endocrinology Advisor, these results serve as a reminder that the risk for type 2 diabetes is based on a number of complex and overlapping factors. They also show that sleep may be an underrecognized factor in a person’s diabetes risk, and that future recommendations may emphasize the importance of getting enough sleep for diabetes prevention as more evidence points to this connection.
Living with type 2 diabetes? Check out our free type 2 e-course!