More than one out of three American adults gets too little sleep (1). In the long term, a sleep debt increases the risk of several chronic health problems including type 2 diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. Even in the short term, failing to get adequate sleep increases insulin resistance in both healthy people and those with diabetes and prediabetes. Prioritizing sleep is an important tool to prevent prediabetes from progressing to type 2 diabetes.
Sleep is not a luxury. We’re actually meant to spend about one-third of our lives snoozing. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine suggests that adults aim for at least 7 hours of sleep nightly (2). But too many of us are having too much fun or struggling to get more done, so we ignore our basic need for sleep.
Sleep and Blood Glucose are Linked Directly
Insulin resistance is an underlying cause of both prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. When the muscle, liver, and fat cells don’t respond adequately to their supply of insulin, blood glucose levels rise. Many factors affect the presence of insulin resistance and an individual’s degree of insulin resistance. Along with diet, physical activity, and body weight, we now recognize sleep as one of those factors. For example, researchers found that restricting sleep for a single night to 4 hours impaired insulin sensitivity by 19–20% among healthy people (3). Additionally, population studies find that people who sleep 7–8 hours nightly are at reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes (4).
Sleeping too little may also boost the risk of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes less directly. Sleep deprivation is linked to higher levels of ghrelin, a hunger hormone, and lower levels of leptin, an appetite-suppressing hormone. When sleep debt unbalances these hormones, calorie intake goes up, particularly with nutrient-poor choices. As weight goes up, so does the risk of high blood glucose. Finally, being overtired wears you out both physically and mentally, which can easily impair your judgment and distract you from your self care efforts.
Make tonight the night you commit to getting a full night’s sleep every night.
By Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, CHWC, FAND, and author of Prediabetes: A Complete Guide.
Stephanie Ronco has been editing in a professional capacity for the past 10 years. In addition to her work as an editor, Ronco has also served as a ghostwriter and writing tutor. A voracious reader, Ronco loves watching language evolve and change. When she’s not delving into her latest project, Ronco can be found teaching acting classes, performing in community theater, or sailing with her husband.