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Poor Sleep Sets Stage for Diabetes

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Poor sleep

Insomniacs who sleep less than six hours may be at higher risk for developing diabetes, according to a new study from Penn State researchers. Individuals found at risk for diabetes complained of difficulty falling asleep, trouble staying asleep, or waking up early - all of which spell insomnia. The researchers found the highest risk of diabetes among those who slept five or fewer than five hours a night.

The odds that lack of sleep could lead to diabetes were calculated from data extracted from sleep studies of 1,741 men and women who were already diagnosed as diabetic, or had elevated glucose levels with lab testing. Duration of sleep was categorized into three groups - who slept less than five or less hours, those who slept five to six hours, and those who slept six hours or more.

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Alexandros Vgontzas, MD, endowed chair in Sleep Disorders Medicine at Penn State College of Medicine in Hershey, Pa. led the study, finding that short sleep duration carries serious health risks. Dr. Vgontzas explains, "The more severe form of insomnia (insomnia with short objective sleep duration) is associated with a risk for diabetes that is similar to the elevated risk associated with obstructive sleep apnea."

Even when sleep duration is normal, the study authors say the risk of depression is higher with insomnia, making treatment important for anyone with who has trouble sleeping.

The findings that poor quality and short duration of sleep can increase diabetes risk were presented at the 23rd Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies. Diabetes is not the only health risk associated with insomnia. Other medical risks associated with not enough sleep include obesity, hypertension, behavioral health issues, and increased risk of heart disease.

Abstract: Insomnia with Objective Short Sleep Duration is Associated with Diabetes