- Not getting enough shut-eye was found to increase insulin resistance in women
- Experts believe a lack of sleep can increase stress on insulin-producing cells
Losing just 90 minutes of sleep a night can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes in women, a study found.
Not getting enough shut-eye was found to increase insulin resistance in women – with the effects most marked in those who have been through the menopause.
Experts believe a lack of sleep can increase stress on insulin-producing cells, causing them to fail.
This can put women at greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes, where blood sugar levels are too high.
Losing just 90 minutes of sleep a night can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes in women
The findings are the first to show that a mild sleep deficit for just six weeks, causes changes in the body that raise the risk of developing the condition.
Researchers wanted to focus on women because it has been suggested that poor sleep may have a greater impact on women’s cardiometabolic health than men’s.
Previous studies have shown that a brief period of total or partial sleep deprivation impairs glucose metabolism.
But they do not reflect the typical experience of being mildly sleep-deprived, which means getting by on roughly six hours of sleep for long periods of time.
Here, 38 healthy women, including 11 postmenopausal women, who routinely slept at least seven hours each night were enrolled.
Using wearable devices, they were monitored for six weeks where they got adequate sleep, with their insulin, glucose, and body fat all measured.
They were also asked to delay their bedtime for an hour and a half, shortening their total sleep time to around six hours for six weeks.
The study found that curtailing sleep increased fasting insulin levels by over 12 per cent overall and by more than 15 per cent among premenopausal women.
Insulin resistance increased by nearly 15 per cent overall and by more than 20 per cent among postmenopausal women, according to the findings published in Diabetes Care.
Study leader Marie-Pierre St-Onge, of Columbia University, said: ‘Throughout their lifespan, women face many changes in their sleep habits due to childbearing, child-rearing, and menopause.
‘Over a longer period of time, ongoing stress on insulin-producing cells could cause them to fail, eventually leading to type 2 diabetes.
‘The fact that we saw these results independent of any changes in body fat, which is a known risk factor for type 2 diabetes, speaks to the impact of mild sleep reduction on insulin-producing cells and metabolism.’
Further research is needed into whether restoring sleep can lead to improved glucose metabolism, she said, adding: ‘The bottom line is that getting adequate sleep each night may lead to better blood sugar control and reduced risk for type 2 diabetes, especially among postmenopausal women.’