Insufficient sleep may increase insulin resistance in women, especially those postmenopausal
- Chronic insufficient sleep can increase insulin resistance in otherwise healthy women.
- The effects of lack of sleep are greater in postmenopausal women.
- Further studies will be conducted to better understand how sleep deficiency affects metabolism.
If you want to maintain good blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of diabetes, you need to avoid short nights, ladies. An American study, published in Diabetes Care on November 13, demonstrated that chronic lack of sleep can increase insulin resistance in women, especially those who are postmenopausal.
Diabetes: lack of sleep increases risk in women
Previous work has already shown that sleep restriction can increase the risk of diseases such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension and disorders of glucose metabolism, which can lead to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. However, they mainly focused on severe short-term sleep restriction or were only performed in men. The researchers were thus able to see what the specific consequences of lack of sleep were in women.
To conduct this study, the team recruited 40 women aged 20 to 75. These participants had healthy sleep habits, usually sleeping between 7 and 9 hours per night. However, they were at high risk of disease cardiometabolic due to factors such as being overweight, obesity or a family history of type 2 diabetes. During the study, volunteers were asked to go to bed an hour and a half later. They slept an average of 6.2 hours per night for six weeks. This reflects the average sleep duration of adults with insufficient sleep. The scientists then measured the levels of insulin and glucose in their blood. Results showed a 14.8% increase in insulin resistance in women pre and post-menopausal. The effects were more severe in postmenopausal participants with an increase of up to 20.1%.
“What we see is that more insulin is needed to normalize glucose levels in women under conditions of sleep restriction, and even then insulin may not have done enough to counter the increase in blood glucose levels of postmenopausal women”explained Professor Marie-Pierre St-Onge, director of the Center of Excellence for Sleep and Circadian Research at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons in a communicated. “If this continues over time, it is possible that prolonged insufficient sleep in people with prediabetes could accelerate progression to type 2 diabetes.“
Sleep and blood sugar: no proven link with weight
The researchers wanted to test whether weight gain could explain the observed changes in insulin and glucose levels, because people tend to eat more when they are tired. But the results of the analyzes showed that the effects on insulin resistance were largely independent of changes in body weight.
Additionally, once the volunteers returned to sleeping 7 to 9 hours per night, their insulin and glucose levels returned to normal. This suggests that lack of sleep itself is responsible for increased insulin resistance in women.
“Researchers plan additional studies to better understand how sleep deficiency affects metabolism in men and women, as well as to explore sleep interventions as a tool in type 2 diabetes prevention efforts”, adds Pr Corinne Silva, program director in the Division of Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolic Diseases of the NIDDK in a press release.