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Insufficient Sleep Negatively Affects Diabetics, Increases Mortality

— July 2, 2021

Adults with diabetes need to maintain health sleep habits, research shows.

A new study has shown that adult diabetics who also reported having sleep disturbances have a “87% higher mortality rate” than who without diabetes or sleep disturbance.  Data was pulled from adults in the UK Biobank with any form of self-reported diabetes or insulin who responded that they usually have sleep disturbances.  Kristen L. Knutson, PhD, and coauthors published their report in the Journal of Sleep Research.

Mortality was “11% higher in respondents who reported frequent sleep disturbances but had no diabetes” than in those without sleep disturbances.  Furthermore, those with diabetes but without sleep disturbances had a “67% higher mortality rate,” compared with those without diabetes.  Both differences were statistically significant when data was adjusted for age, sex, ethnicity, smoking, sleep duration, body mass index, and other covariates.

Insufficient Sleep Negatively Affects Diabetics, Increases Mortality
Photo by Ivan Oboleninov from Pexels

“The findings suggest that diabetes and frequent sleep disturbances act in a roughly additive way to raise mortality risk,” said Knutson, an epidemiologist and neurologist who specializes in sleep medicine at Northwestern University, Chicago.

She suggested, “Clinicians should consider annually asking patients with diabetes this key question about the frequency of their sleep disturbances.  They should then follow up with patients who report usual disturbances by referring them to a sleep clinic to test for a sleep disorders such as insomnia or sleep apnea.”  She added that “sleep apnea especially is “particularly common in patients with type 2 diabetes.”

A 2017 study published in the Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism, noted, “sleep apnea (is) significantly higher in persons with diabetes and correlates highly with obesity.  In fact, a strong association exists between obesity, impaired glucose tolerance, insulin resistance, and sleep apnea.”

A 2016 Current Diabetes Reports study explored the relationship between sleep patterns and the development of diabetes, concluding, “Sleep is important for many physiologic processes, and many of these processes are involved in regulation of metabolism.  Perhaps because of this, insufficient sleep and sleep disorders have been identified as novel and important risk factors for the development of diabetes…Increased recognition of the importance of sleep in the understanding of and management of diabetes is warranted.”

Because sleep is so important for maintaining health, poor sleep can cause the body to get out of sync, slowing metabolism and leading to obesity, a significant precursor to Type 2 diabetes.  Thus, it makes sense that a large number of those with Type 2 also report having abnormal sleep patterns.  The data suggests that regulating sleep should be a component of preventive care as well as maintaining the health of already diagnosed diabetics.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that diabetics get a full nights’ right or risk insulin resistance.  A lack of sleep also makes an individual hungrier the next day, more likely to reach for junk foods, and makes it harder to lose weight, the agency reports. Many of these symptoms are true of those without diabetes as well.  A lack of sleep can lead to many health complications.


Diabetes and Sleep Disturbances Can Be a Lethal Combination

Sleep Disorders in Type 2 Diabetes

Sleep for a Good Cause

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