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Poor sleep could raise diabetes risk

Disturbances hamper volunteers' ability to regulate blood sugar.

January 03, 2008|From the Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Sleep disruptions damage the body's ability to regulate blood sugar levels, potentially raising the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, according to researchers at the University of Chicago Medical Center.

More than 18 million Americans have diabetes. The most common form is Type 2, in which the body either becomes resistant to insulin or doesn't produce enough of it to regulate sugar in the bloodstream.

Researchers led by Dr. Esra Tasali, an assistant professor of medicine, found that when nine volunteers' deepest sleep periods were disrupted, their ability to regulate blood-sugar levels quickly fell.

The findings were reported online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The researchers studied the sleep patterns of five men and four women, all of normal weight, in good health, ages 20 to 31.

Normal sleep is divided into several stages, with the so-called slow-wave sleep considered the deepest.

Whenever the volunteers went into slow-wave sleep the researchers made noise -- enough to disturb but not to fully awaken them.

After just three days, the ability of the volunteers to regulate blood sugar was reduced by 25%, the researchers reported.

Earlier studies have indicated that lack of sleep can reduce the ability to regulate sugar, and this report adds evidence that poor sleep quality is also a diabetes risk.

"This decrease in slow-wave sleep resembles the changes in sleep patterns caused by 40 years of aging," Tasali said. Young adults spend 80 to 100 minutes a night in slow-wave sleep; people older than 60 generally have less than 20 minutes. "In this experiment," she said, "we gave people in their 20s the sleep of those in their 60s."

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