Study Suggests Short Sleep at Odd Hours Drives Up Blood Sugar
April 11, 2012 -- Short sleep on a disrupted schedule -- common in shift work -- significantly increases blood sugar, setting the stage for obesity and diabetes, a new study shows.
The study found that otherwise-healthy adults who were both sleep deprived and sleeping on schedules that put them at odds with their biological clocks -- common problems for millions of people who work at night -- made 32% less insulin, the hormone that controls blood sugar, than they do when they are well rested.
As a result, their blood sugar rose significantly. In some cases, those increases reached pre-diabetic levels.
The number of calories they burned at rest also dropped about 8%. Over the course of a year, researchers think that could translate into a weight gain of nearly 13 pounds.
"What that means is that the modern condition of excess work, excess pressure, no sleep -- all this disruption -- we can't adapt well to it metabolically. This is a maladaptive response to modern life," says researcher Orfeu M. Buxton, PhD, an associate neuroscientist in the division of sleep medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.
Measuring the Impact of Poor Sleep
For the study, published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, researchers had 21 men and women live in carefully controlled conditions in a sleep lab for more than a month.