Shortening sleep time could increase diabetes risk in women, study suggests

Shortening sleep time could increase diabetes risk in women, study suggests

The recommended amount of sleep for optimal health is between 7 and 9 hours per night, but about a third of Americans sleep less than the minimum recommended number of hours. More often than not, women, more than men, feel like they are not getting enough sleep.

InsomniaPhoto: © Ocusfocus |

A new study conducted at Columbia University found that shortening sleep time by just 90 minutes for six weeks increased insulin resistance in women accustomed to getting enough sleep, writes The effect was even more pronounced in postmenopausal women.

These results are the first to show that a slight lack of sleep, sustained over several weeks, causes changes in the body that increase the risk of diabetes in women.

Previous studies showing the negative impact on insulin sensitivity included mostly men and focused on the effects of very severe sleep restriction over a short period of time.

Women and sleep

The new study looked specifically at women, as studies suggest that poor sleep may have a greater impact on women’s cardiometabolic health than men’s.

“Throughout their lives, women experience many changes in their sleep habits due to childbirth, child-rearing and menopause,” explains Marie-Pierre St-Onge, head of the study, professor of nutritional medicine and director of the Center of Excellence in Sleep and Circadian Rhythm Research at Columbia University.

It is difficult to study the health impact of chronically insufficient sleep. Some laboratory studies have shown that a short period of total or partial sleep deprivation affects glucose metabolism. But such studies don’t reflect the typical experience of mild sleep deprivation, which means getting by on about six hours of sleep for extended periods.

Study design

To analyze the impact of mild and chronic sleep deprivation, researchers recruited 38 healthy women, including 11 postmenopausal women, who regularly slept at least seven hours each night.

In the study, participants were subjected to two study phases in random order.

In one phase, they were asked to maintain adequate sleep; in the other, they were asked to delay bedtime by an hour and a half, reducing total sleep time to about six hours.

Each of these phases lasted six weeks.

Remarkably, all study participants were able to reduce their nightly sleep duration during the difficult six-week sleep restriction phase.

Adherence to sleep schedules was measured using wearable devices.

Throughout the study, researchers measured insulin, glucose and body fat.

Study results

The study found that reducing sleep by 90 minutes over six weeks increased fasting insulin levels by more than 12% overall and by more than 15% in premenopausal women.

Insulin resistance increased by almost 15% overall and more than 20% in postmenopausal women.

Average blood sugar levels remained stable for all participants throughout the study.

“Over a longer period of time, continued stress on insulin-producing cells could cause them to fail, eventually leading to type 2 diabetes,” explains Professor St-Onge.

Although increased abdominal fat is a key factor in insulin resistance, researchers found that the effects of sleep loss on insulin resistance were not due to increased fat.

The researchers say these results, obtained independently of any changes in body fat, which is a known risk factor for type 2 diabetes, show the impact of slightly reduced sleep on insulin-producing cells and the metabolism.

Ultimately, getting enough sleep each night may lead to better blood sugar control and a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, especially in postmenopausal women.

Next steps

In recent years, epidemiological studies have suggested that people whose sleep varies from day to day are also at higher risk of developing diabetes.

The study team next aims to see if stabilizing sleep patterns in people with varying sleep schedules improves blood sugar control.

Further studies will examine whether restoring sleep to people who typically don’t get enough sleep can improve glucose metabolism.


[Foto articol: © Ocusfocus |]



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