Obesity is a well known risk factor for heart disease, which in itself is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes. It is also well known that eating healthier and staying active are vital to preventing or delaying the onset of obesity and diabetes. However, a study recently published in the journal Diabetologia found that a lack of sleep may also be a big risk factor for obesity and diabetes. Researchers at the University of Chicago Medical Center looked at a group of healthy adult men between the ages of 18 and 30 years. In one-half of the study, the men slept for four nights at eight hours a night, while they only slept for about four hours a night in the other half of the study.
When the men only had about four hours of sleep a night, they had higher levels of free fatty acids in their blood than when they had eight hours of sleep. These high levels of free fatty acids stayed high for about five hours in the morning and did not drop until overnight. Researchers say that this increase of free fatty acids in the blood is something that they see often in those at risk for diabetes. The free fatty acids in the blood make it harder for insulin to use glucose for energy in the body, which can impair the function of insulin over time. Higher amounts of free fatty acids in the blood not only make it harder for the insulin in your body to control blood glucose levels, but can affect the digestion of fats in the body.
This study suggests that stressing the importance of sleep as part of a healthy lifestyle along with healthy eating and exercise could greatly reduce rates of obesity and diabetes and improve quality of life of many.