FYI Daily

Disrupted Sleep Linked to Diabetes

Last updated: Apr 13, 2012

Woman trying to sleep

If the association between poor sleep and pre-clinical Alzheimer's isn't enough incentive to go to bed early tonight, how about a link between poor sleep and diabetes?

In what might be one of the least-appealing clinical studies in modern U.S. science, healthy volunteers slept 10 hours a night for three weeks and then were put into dimly lit isolation "suites" for almost six weeks. There, they got about five hours of sleep a day, at random intervals, whenever the researchers allowed them to. The participants weren't allowed to see time cues, use the Internet, or have visitors. (Lead researcher Orfeu Buxton, a neuroscientist and sleep researcher at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, told the Chicago Tribune that one participant did organize 20 years' worth of photos into pretty photo albums during the study.)

During and after the study, participants had their metabolic rates, glucose levels, and insulin levels monitored. Generally, the poor sleep conditions lowered insulin levels by about a third, bumping up glucose levels significantly, and even into prediabetes levels for three participants.

Metabolic rate among the participants also dropped by about 8 percent. "That might sound like a small number, but it's enough where you would gain 10 to 12 pounds in a year," noted Buxton. "Within three or four years, you could be obese."

Interestingly, the CDC published a sleep deprivation map that shows the worst sleep problems in the Southeast of the United States. "That map exactly matches stroke and heart disease and poverty and diabetes," said Buxton.

So what should you do? Practice good sleep hygiene, like keeping the room dark enough and quiet enough, and make sure you're giving yourself enough time to sleep. "8.5 is the new eight," said Buxton.

If it's hard for you to stay asleep, try these solutions for common sleep problems.