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Less Sleep May Raise Women's Diabetes Risk

A recent study indicated that women who cut their sleep duration by only ninety minutes over six weeks showed increased insulin resistance.

Seven to nine hours of sleep a night is suggested for good health, yet around one-third of Americans sleep less than this minimum.

Researchers at Columbia University have found — for the first time — that a six-week period of modest sleep deprivation leads to physiological alterations that increase women's chance of getting diabetes. Postmenopausal women saw an even more noticeable effect.

An excessively elevated blood sugar level is one of the symptoms of diabetes. Approximately 10% of Americans, or 37.3 million people, suffer with diabetes.

The majority of men were involved in earlier studies that showed the detrimental effects on insulin sensitivity, and they concentrated on the short-term consequences of extremely severe sleep deprivation.

Because research indicates that women's cardiometabolic health may be more negatively impacted by sleep deprivation than that of men, the current study focused specifically on women.

Throughout their lifespan, women face many changes in their sleep habits due to childbearing, child-rearing, and menopause.

- Marie-Pierre St-Onge, study leader

She continues by saying that more women than males believe they don't get enough sleep.

A brief duration of total or partial sleep deprivation has been found in several laboratory tests to alter glucose metabolism.

These studies, however, do not account for the everyday experience of moderate sleep deprivation, which entails surviving for extended periods of about six hours of sleep.

The researchers enlisted 38 healthy women, including 11 postmenopausal women, who regularly slept at least seven hours every night to investigate the effects of moderate, chronic sleep deprivation.

Participants in the study went through two phases in a random sequence.

They were instructed to get at least seven hours of sleep in one phase, then to cut that down to six hours in the other by pushing back their bedtime by fifteen minutes. These stages each lasted for six weeks.

Throughout the demanding six-week sleep-restriction phase, every research subject could shorten their sleep time each night. Wearable technology was used to gauge adherence to sleep regimens.

Throughout the trial, the researchers took measurements of body fat, insulin, and glucose.

Sleep and diabetes in women

According to the study, cutting sleep by 90 minutes for six weeks raised fasting insulin levels in premenopausal women by more than 15% and in the general population by over 12%.

Insulin resistance rose by around 15%, and in postmenopausal women, it climbed by over 20%.

For the trial, every participant's average blood sugar levels stayed consistent.

Per St-Onge, persistent stress on insulin-producing cells over an extended period may contribute to their failure and the eventual development of type 2 diabetes.

The researchers discovered that sleep deprivation did not cause an increase in abdominal fat, even though this is one of the leading causes of insulin resistance.

The fact that we saw these results independent of any changes in body fat, which is a known risk factor for type 2 diabetes, speaks to the impact of mild sleep reduction on insulin-producing cells and metabolism.

- St-Onge

In the end, she concludes that obtaining enough sleep each night may improve blood sugar regulation and lower the incidence of type 2 diabetes, particularly in postmenopausal women.

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