Does Sleep Deprivation Increase Type 2 Diabetes Risk?

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A new study found that just one night of sleep loss could increase our risk of type 2 diabetes.

Using mice as subjects, researchers at Toho University compared sleep-deprived mice to mice with healthy sleep. The mice who had been kept awake showed a higher count of enzymes associated with insulin resistance.

In previous studies, insulin resistance has been found to be an early warning sign for diabetes in humans. This study focused more specifically on metabolic enzymes in the liver.

Being that the subjects were mice, it is difficult to draw conclusions about how this research relates to humans. Still, according to the study’s authors, this could be one more step toward understanding the connection between sleep deprivation and type 2 diabetes.

[Editor’s Note: The information provided should not be considered a substitute for professional advice. Please consult a sleep doctor or other medical expert if one has questions related to one’s own health.]

RELATED: Too Little And Too Much Sleep Could Affect Heart Health

A syringe is pressed into a bottle of insulin.
Sherry Yates Young/Shutterstock

Mice And Insulin Resistance

During the study, the researchers began by introducing unlimited sugar water and fatty foods to a cohort of male mice. The researchers also limited the mice’s movement and exercise.

After two weeks of this regimen, the mice were split into two groups. One group was allowed to sleep normally. The other group was deprived of sleep using a “gentle handling method.” When a mouse in the test group would begin to fall asleep, they would be held and lightly woken up.

After only six hours of this process, the scientists measured glucose production as well as fat and triglyceride levels in the mice’s livers. In addition to an increase in glucose production, the sleep-deprived mice also had almost 68% higher triglyceride levels.

In a number of studies, higher triglyceride and other metabolic enzyme levels have been linked to insulin resistance. (The term “insulin resistance” refers to when a body’s cells cannot regulate and process insulin effectively.) According to an article published in the Journal of the American Diabetes Association, insulin resistance is “the most powerful predictor of future development of type 2 diabetes.”

Type 2 Diabetes And Sleep

While the connection between sleep deprivation and type 2 diabetes would seem clear, the authors say a direct correlation cannot be established. They say, “It was not clear whether glucose intolerance was due to the changes in food intake or energy expenditure or to the sleep deprivation itself.”

RELATED: Researchers Uncover Neural Link Between Poor Sleep Quality, Depression

A woman has difficulty sleeping.
Sergey Mironov/Shutterstock

This is not the first study to focus on the impact sleep has on type 2 diabetes. For instance, a team of researchers at the Sultan Qaboos University Hospital in Muscat, Oman found an association between adults who sleep less than six hours a night and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

As of 2015, it is estimated that 30.3 million Americans struggle with some form of diabetes. Out of this group, 7.2 million of these are undiagnosed. The results of this new study could further our understanding of how a lack of sleep could be a potential cause of the disease.

Next, the researchers said they plan to study how intervention in metabolic enzyme processes could possibly counteract the effect of sleep deprivation on type 2 diabetes risk.

[Editor’s Note: The information provided should not be considered a substitute for professional advice. Please consult a sleep doctor or other medical expert if individuals have questions related to their own health.]

Featured image: Montri Thipsorn/Shutterstock

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Marten Carlson

Marten is a staff writer for Mattress Clarity News. He covers the mattress industry as well as sleep science news. He is specifically interested in the connection between sleep and overall health.Marten has written for media publications like Consequence of Sound and received a master’s degree in Film Studies from Emory University.He comes from Franklin, Indiana, and spends all the time he can writing, directing, and acting in films. He has directed genre short films and features. His newest film, Starlets, recently premiered at the River Town Film Festival in Clinton, NJ. He also stars in the upcoming thriller, Sour Bear. His next film, At The Hop, is a hot rod actioner with a horror twist.