The Critical Link: How Lack of Sleep Can Increase Diabetes Risk


Sleep is essential for good health, but many people worldwide suffer from insomnia, which can have negative effects on both physical and mental health.

Sleep is essential for good health, but many people worldwide suffer from insomnia, which can have negative effects on both physical and mental health.

Dr Sonali Kagne, Deputy Consultant, Department of Endocrinology, Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital, Mumbai shares how lack of sleep affects diabetic patients

Seven to 9 hours of sleep is appropriate for an adult to maintain optimal health. The modern lifestyle’s demand for reduced sleep has significant repercussions, extending beyond tiredness to serious health issues, including diabetes.

Recent study with a cohort of 248000 people, found that people who slept 5 or fewer(3-4) hours each night were at a higher risk (16% and 41% respectively) of type 2 diabetes, than those who slept 7 to 8 hours, even if they followed a healthy diet.

Short sleep duration is associated with current and future obesity. The possible mechanisms are explained as follows:

  1. It is mediated by several factors which includes, increased appetite/dietary intake, reduced physical activity.
  2. Short sleepers are more likely to have nontraditional eating habits than the standard three-meals-a-day regimen, generally resulting in eating very high caloric foods at rare periods of the day. Sleep loss may impair an individual’s ability to make healthy food choices.
  3. Insufficient sleep enhances a positive energy balance by increasing energy intake to compensate for the lack of biological processes that normally occur during nighttime sleep, resulting in weight gain .
  4. Sleep deprivation can activate the sympathetic nervous system and induce cortisol dysregulation, which is attributed to insulin resistance and visceral adiposity.
  5. In addition, inflammation and oxidative stress, such as tumor necrosis factor-α and interleukin-6, may also play a role.
  6. Sleep deprivation leads to reduced insulin sensitivity, where the body struggles to use insulin effectively, causing elevated glucose levels that can signal the onset of diabetes.
  7. Leptin and ghrelin, are hormones responsible for the physiological drives of satiation and increased appetite, respectively. Short sleep durations result in lower leptin and higher ghrelin levels, disturbing the appetite balance, increasing hunger, and potentially leading to obesity, a major diabetes risk factor.

Furthermore, disrupting the body’s natural circadian rhythms, which dictate sleep-wake cycles, affects overall metabolic health, compounding diabetes risk.



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