Sleep deprivation, in combination with disrupted "body clock" rhythms, could result in some of the changes to a person's metabolism that can foreshadow both obesity and diabetes, researchers report.
Participants in the small study who were only allowed to sleep about six hours a night and who were subjected to shifting sleep-wake cycles had higher blood sugar levels and lower resting "metabolic rates," which is a term that describes how quickly your body burns calories for energy.
Elevated blood sugar levels can lead to diabetes. If diet and exercise aren't changed, low resting metabolic rates can lead to obesity, which in turn elevates the risk for diabetes.
Previous research has shown that people who work the night shift or who continually get too little sleep have high fat levels in the blood and are more likely to be obese and have type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome (a cluster of conditions that are associated with increased risk of heart disease), said Dr. Orfeu Buxton, lead author of the new study and an associate neuroscientist at Brigham & Women's Hospital in Boston.