The recommended amount of sleep for optimal health is between seven and nine hours every night but most people often don’t get sufficient sleep. A new study found that shortening sleep by just 90 minutes for a few weeks increases insulin resistance, a risk factor for type 2 diabetes among women.
The study, led by researchers from Columbia University’s Irving Medical Center, found that curtailing sleep by 90 minutes for six weeks increased insulin resistance in women who are used to getting adequate sleep. Notably, this effect was even more prevalent in postmenopausal women. The findings were published in the journal Diabetes Care.
According to the researchers, this is the first to show that a mild sleep deficit, continued for six weeks, leads to changes in the body and increases the risk of developing diabetes in women. Previous studies that showed lack of sleep can negatively impact insulin sensitivity included mostly men and focused on the effects of severe sleep restriction over a short time, the university’s press statement revealed.
The study results found that shortening sleep by 90 minutes for six weeks increased fasting insulin levels by over 12% overall and by more than 15% among premenopausal women, the statement added. Furthermore, insulin resistance increased by nearly 15% overall and over 20% among postmenopausal women. Notably, average blood sugar levels were stable for all participants throughout the study.
Throughout their lives, women go through changes in their sleep habits due to pregnancy, parenting and menopause and more of them feel they don’t get as much sleep as men, lead author Marie-Pierre St-Onge said in the statement. Lack of sleep can pose several health risks and this study investigates one of them. "Over a longer period of time, ongoing stress on insulin-producing cells could cause them to fail, eventually leading to type 2 diabetes," lead author
The researchers also found that these results are independent of any changes in body fat, which is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes. This shows that slight sleep reduction can impact insulin-producing cells and metabolism.
“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,” St-Onge added in the statement.
Previous studies have also found associations between sleep habits and diabetes risk. For instance, a study, published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine in September, found that people with later sleep and wake times might be at higher risk of developing the disease. These findings indicate the importance of getting sufficient sleep for maintaining good health.