Having trouble sleeping may be more than just an inconvenience, based on recent findings linking sleep disorders to increased risk for type 2 diabetes.
Published in the European journal Diabetologia, this study analyzed the association between sleep behaviors and diabetes risk. Prior studies have linked sleeping difficulty to a number of conditions, ranging from depression to diabetes and heart disease. However, whether sleep disorders are directly related to diabetes risk is unclear.
To learn more, researchers analyzed data from the Nurses Health Studies, which are among the largest and longest running studies on women’s health. First started in 1976 and expanded in 1989, these studies have used surveys and other tools to track the health of female nurses for decades.
More than 133,300 women—all free of diabetes, heart disease and cancer at the start of the study—were included in the recent analysis. In 2000 and 2001, participants completed questionnaires about their sleep behaviors, among other health issues. Researchers then followed participants for ten years, tracking outcomes like diabetes and heart disease.
After ten years of follow-up, roughly 5% of women developed type 2 diabetes. After taking into account baseline lifestyle factors and the development of high blood pressure, depression and weight, researchers found that women having sleep difficulty were 22% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those who didn’t. However, women with sleep difficulty who also snored, got 6 or fewer hours of sleep a night and had sleep apnea were more than four times as likely to develop diabetes as those who didn’t.
In this study, sleep difficulty was defined as having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep either all of the time or some of the time.
Based on findings, addressing sleep disorders may be important for the prevention of type 2 diabetes. There’s no question that not getting enough quality sleep can take a toll on the mind and body. Poor sleep habits likely increase risk for a number of conditions, including type 2 diabetes. The more issues a person has related to sleeping, the greater their risk may be for complications.
With an estimated 10–20% of Americans having difficulty falling asleep or maintaining sleep on a regular basis, experts are concerned. More individuals either have or are at risk for diabetes than ever before. In addition to addressing traditional risk factors like being overweight and inactivity, experts hope that addressing sleep behaviors will help combat diabetes in the United States.