Women who have chronic sleep problems may have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, Harvard researchers report.
Problems such as trouble falling or staying asleep, getting less than six hours of sleep, frequent snoring, sleep apnea or rotating shift work appear to increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, the researchers said. They found that women who reported trouble falling asleep all or most of the time had 45% greater odds of developing type 2 diabetes.
“Women with sleeping difficulty, especially when also having other conditions, should be aware of potential higher risk of diabetes,” said lead researcher Dr. Yanping Li, a research scientist at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston. “Doctors should pay more attention to the potential diabetes risk of women who have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep,” she said.
“Not sleeping well affects the circadian rhythm regulated by hormones that are so important for metabolism and involved in control of blood sugar. Thus, it is not surprising that sleep disorders are associated with obesity and diabetes,” said Dr. Joel Zonszein, director of the Clinical Diabetes Center at Monteflore Medical Center in New York City. He was not associated with the study.
The report was published Jan. 28 in the journal Diabetologia.
For the study, Li and her colleagues collected data on more than 133,000 U.S. women who took part in the Nurses’ Health Study between 2000 and 2014. At the start of the study, none of the women had diabetes, heart disease or cancer.
Over 10 years of follow-up, more than 6,400 women developed type 2 diabetes. Women with one sleep problem had a 45% increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, the researchers found.
For each additional problem, the risk increased again – twice for two sleep problems, three times for three problems and four times for four problems, Li said.
The two most important questions I ask new patients are “How well do you sleep?” and “How is your libido?” The answers tell me more about endocrine health than any other history or testing.
Melatonin is produced by the pineal gland (third eye) when exposed to sunlight during daylight hours. However, this hormone remains inactive until dark. When activated it insulates the hypothalamus from the stimulation of the outside world. This allows us to relax and fall asleep.
Melatonin also is a modulator of all the other hormones in the body, including cortisol and insulin. Cortisol should be at its’ lowest level around midnight. It then increases slightly to maintain blood sugar levels while we sleep. However, if is increases too quickly when we awaken from a sleep cycle, the mind becomes active and we struggle to fall asleep again.
The Bottom Line:
A good night’s sleep is essential to good health and an important barometer of health as well. Often, the key is stimulating the pineal to produce increased levels of melatonin or reducing adrenal stress to keep cortisol levels in check. However, I strongly disagree with supplementing melatonin, DHEA, or any other hormone to force these endocrine changes. If you would like to read more about these cycles in the body, search the key word ‘Chaste Tree’ on my blog site.
Source: January 28, 2016 National Institutes of Health