Extra Shut-Eye May Shut Down Diabetes

Diabetes risk in men who lack sleep drops with a few nights of rest

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Many of us don’t get enough sleep during the week because of our busy work schedules and lifestyles. Sleep deprivation, however, takes a toll on a person’s health.

Research has shown that sleep can help control blood sugar levels, while lack of shut-eye may put a person on the path to getting diabetes. Catching up with zzz’s on the weekend can improve matters, according to a new study.

The extra snoozing can put a body on a healthier course and help clear glucose (blood sugar) from the bloodstream.

"Get a good night’s rest, every night."

Peter Liu, MD, a lead researcher at Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute (LA Biomed), worked together with other scientists to examine how sleep and lack of sleep affects insulin resistance in a small group of men.

Produced in the pancreas, insulin is a hormone that regulates a person's blood sugar level. This hormone acts like a key in a sense, opening up cells so they can use the glucose from the blood.

In a patient with type 2 diabetes, the body cannot effectively use the insulin the pancreas produces. This person is said to be insulin resistant—in that glucose is not sufficiently entering the cells and supplying energy to the body.

Dr. Liu and investigators from the University of Sydney in Australia studied 19 non-diabetic men. Participants were an average age of about 28. Over about five years, these men self-reported inadequate sleep during the workweek.

On average, the men were getting about six hours of sleep each work night. On the weekends, however, they regularly caught up on their snoozing, getting an extra 2.3 hours, per night, the authors reported.

Scientist verified their sleep times using actigraphy, in which each man wore a small device on his wrist that monitored sleep-wake cycles.

The men spent three nights in a sleep lab on each of two separate weekends. While the researchers let some of the subjects sleep for 10 hours a night, they woke others after six hours or they would let them sleep 10 hours but rouse them into a shallow sleep (without waking them) when they entered deep sleep.

On the fourth morning, the research staff drew the men's blood to measure their blood sugar and insulin levels to calculate insulin sensitivity. Each individual had the same food intake during the study visits, so that diet would not influence the results, Dr. Liu said.

When the men slept 10 hours a night on each of three nights of catch-up sleep, their insulin sensitivity (their body’s use of insulin) was much better than when they got less sleep, the scientists found. Their insulin resistance test score improved (decreased) with sleep extension.

"The good news is that by extending the hours they sleep, adult men—who over a long period of time do not get enough sleep during the working week—can still improve their insulin sensitivity," Dr. Liu said in a statement.

The study was presented in June at The Endocrine Society's 95th Annual Meeting in San Francisco. Researchers received funding from the National Institutes of Health's National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences and from Australia's National Health and Medical Research Council. The study was not yet published or peer-reviewed, according to available information.

Review Date: 
June 20, 2013
Last Updated:
August 12, 2013