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April 21, 2008

Study Suggests Insomnia Contributes to Diabetes

Study Suggests Insomnia Contributes to Diabetes

Diabetes is a serious health problem affecting millions of people worldwide. In the United States, diabetes has been on the increase over the past two decades, and there has been speculation that it is because of the growing obesity epidemic in America.

But now researchers from the University of Chicago are conducting studies which seemed to point to a new risk factor for diabetes : sleeping problems. Researchers tested out their theory on a group of healthy young adults using a controlled sleep laboratory.

For three consecutive nights, the volunteers were prevented from getting a good night’s sleep in the lab. Afterward, it was found that the volunteers were not processing insulin nearly as well as before the study began. In other words, the volunteer’s bodies needed increased amounts of insulin in order to process the same amount of sugar.

This decrease in the body’s ability to process sugar was compared by the researchers to the effects of an individual putting on 20 to 30 pounds. And the study seems to confirm the findings of previous research that concluded that not getting proper sleep puts an individual at increased risk of both obesity and diabetes.

In the study, the volunteer’s brain waves were monitored, and as soon as an individual began to enter what is known as “slow wave” sleep, the researchers set off a series of noises and musical tones to nudge them awake.

The volunteers on average had their sleep patterns disrupted nearly three hundred times per night, resulting in very unrestful sleep, and tiredness the following day. Although the volunteers had their sleep disrupted hundreds of times during the course of a night, most reported hearing the noises and being awoken only three or four times when questioned the next morning.

The University of Chicago study, reported by the Chicago Sun-Times, suggests that lifestyle choices may play a far greater role in the development of diabetes than was previously thought. Staying up later at night or waking up earlier in the morning can apparently put a great deal of stress on the body, resulting in an inability to efficiently use insulin.

Of course, sleep problems have been linked to a wide range of physical illnesses, as well as depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. It is well-known, for example, that people who sleep poorly tend to have digestive problems, and are much more likely to be clinically obese.

This newest study confirms the importance of getting a proper night’s sleep in order to keep the body functioning properly. Although scientists say that more research is needed, it now appears that sleep disorders could be as big a health risk as poor diet or even obesity.

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