Martha Hunt, MA CAMF
Health Promotion & Wellness
A new study may help explain another reason why diabetes in the US is on the rise. American culture does not value sleep. We think that anyone who needs more than a few hours of sleep at night is lazy when in fact the human body needs between seven and nine hours of sleep at night. Young people, especially young men, need even more sleep in order for their bodies to function properly.
Research has shown that sleep duration has shortened in western societies in the past decade and that there has also been an increase in cases of "insulin resistance" and adult-onset diabetes. A short night of sleep has more profound effects on metabolic regulation than previously thought. Type 2 Diabetes is caused by the body's inability to adequately use insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, to control glucose sugar produced from food. Sugar levels rise and can damage the eyes, kidneys, nerves, heart and major arteries. Diabetes, also linked to poor diet and lack of exercise, is reaching epidemic levels. An estimated 180 million people now suffer from diabetes around the world.
Previous studies have found that several nights of poor sleep can result in impaired use of insulin and that sleep deprivation – not sleeping for several days on end – can cause the body to lose all ability to control blood sugar levels. The current study shows that insulin sensitivity depends on the duration of sleep in the preceding night. Another study by U.S. scientists published last year found that people who slept less than six hours a night were 4.5 times more likely to develop abnormal blood sugar readings compared with those who slept longer.
Other reasons we need to sleep? When we sleep properly we are less likely to get into car crashes, have work related accidents, day time heart attacks, our immune system works better to fight off disease and heal injury and out memories are better. Getting a good night’s sleep isn’t a luxury or laziness – it is essential for proper health at so many levels. For more information on how to get a good night’s sleep go to the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research at www.nhlbi.nih.gov/sleep .