Healthy living

Short sleep linked to diabetes and heart disease

sleep and diabetes May affect blood glucose levels

People who sleep less than six hours a night may be three times more likely to develop a condition which leads to diabetes and heart disease, according to new research.

A team of UK and US researchers found that people with short sleep duration have a higher risk of a pre-diabetic condition, known as incident-impaired fasting glycaemia (IFG).

Having IFG means your body can't regulate glucose as efficiently as it should. People with IFG have a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes and are at an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.

The study involved 1,455 men and women between the ages of 35 and 79 living in and around New York. All were given health checks and had their blood pressure, height and weight measured.

They also filled in questionnaires about their general health, wellbeing and sleep patterns and were tracked for six years.

The study is the first to look at the association between sleep duration and IFG, said Dr Saverio Stranges from Warwick Medical School, who led the study.

He said: "We found that short sleep, less than six hours, was associated with a significant, three-fold increased likelihood of developing IFG, compared to people who got an average of six to eight hours sleep a night."

Dr Stranges said there were a number of ways in which sleep loss could affect glucose metabolism.

"Previous studies have shown that short sleep duration results in a 28 per cent increase in mean levels of the appetite stimulating hormone ghrelin so it can affect feeding behaviours.

Other studies have also shown that a lack of sleep can decrease glucose tolerance and increases the production of cortisol, a hormone produced in response to stress.

"More research is needed but our study does suggest a very strong correlation between lack of sleep and type 2 diabetes and heart disease."

Professor Francesco Cappuccio, Head of the Sleep, Health & Society Programme at the University of Warwick added: "These results are welcome and confirm our early reports that both sleep quantity and quality are strong predictors of the development of type 2 diabetes, strokes and heart attacks."

This article was published on Wed 8 September 2010



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