Lack Of Sleep Leads To The Risk Of Diabetes And Obesity

April 12, 2012 10:19 PM EDT
Tiredness (Photo: Flickr)

New released study, published in Science Translational Medicine indicates the shift works can cause the body struggle to control sugar levels.

There are 8.6 million people do shift work, including night job and rotate shifts works in the U.S. Some people do it for their careers, and others do it for financial needs. And sometimes night works and shift works- like firefighters, nurses, doctors, police officers, and pilots- are necessary for maintaining society. But sleep disorder or lacks of sleep caused from shift works can cause serious problems related their health like diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

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And according to the National Sleep Foundation, a shift worker is not only those who work at night but also those who work outside a steady 9 to 5. Now the shift work has become common in the U.S. So now many researchers focus on the dangers or effects of shift work on health.

The researchers controlled the lives of 21 people, including meal and sleep. The effects of shift works significantly increase blood sugar, setting the stage for obesity and diabetes.

Doctors at Brigham and Women's Hospital controlled sleep of 21 health participants for 6 weeks. The researchers observed their eating habits and sleep pattern. At first, participants were allowed to sleep for 10 hours. After then, they were allowed to sleep for 6 hours in 3 weeks to disturb their sleep and body clock. And the cycle of one day was extended to 28 hours to make an effect similar to a full-time flyer constantly getting jet lag. Moreover, they had to live in dimly lit rooms without windows, which prevented their bodies from adjusting to shifting days and nights.

The lack of sleep and the change of sleep cycle increase blood sugar level by lowering resting metabolic rate. It is because pancreas can’t produce insulin sufficiently. Three of the participants had sugar level which stayed so high after their meals they were classified as “pre-diabetic”. The team explained that the drop in resting metabolic rate could translate into a weight gain of 12.5 pounds in a single year.

“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”, said lead researcher Dr. Orfeu Buxton said.

During the periods of sleep disorder and disturbance, people consume fewer calories than they did when they get enough sleep. Their blood sugar also increases. Previous studies that have focused on the relation of sleep and metabolism have determined that blood sugar goes up after a night of short sleep because the body's muscles become less sensitive to the hormone insulin. Insulin resistance leads to problems in the body, including diabetes, polycystic ovary syndrome, heart disease, and cancer.

This study shows lack of sleep can prevent pancreas from producing enough insulin to meet the body's energy demands.


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