Researchers in The Netherlands found that healthy people who had just one night of short sleep can show signs of insulin resistance, a condition that often precedes Type 2 diabetes.

You can a read paper on the study, led by Dr Esther Donga of Leiden University Medical Center, which is about to be published in the May print issue of The Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, JCEM, in an early online April issue of the journal.

Donga told the press that over the last ten years the average night’s sleep in western societies has shortened, coinciding with a rise in cases of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. These findings suggest this may be more than a coincidence, and that:

“… a short night of sleep has more profound effects on metabolic regulation than previously appreciated,” said Donga.

Other studies have already shown that several nights of shorter sleep can lead to impaired glucose tolerance, but this is the first to show insulin sensitivity can change after only one night of partial sleep.

For their study, Donga and colleagues recruited 9 healthy participants, and measured their insulin sensitivy following one night of about 8 hours of normal sleep and again following one night of only 4 hours of partial sleep.

They measured the participants’ insulin sensitivity using the “hyperinsulinemic euglycemic clamp method” which infuses glucose and insulin into the bloodstream via catheters and allows you to work out how much glucose is necessary to compensate for an increased insulin level without causing hypoglycemia.

Donga said their results suggest that day to day insulin sensitivity is not fixed in healthy people, but depends on how much sleep they have had the previous night.

“In fact it is tempting to speculate that the negative effects of multiple nights of shortened sleep on glucose tolerance can be reproduced, at least in part, by just one sleepless night,” she added.

Prompted by their findings the researchers suggested further investigations should be done to find out whether improving sleep duration could help stabilize glucose levels in patients with diabetes.

“A Single Night of Partial Sleep Deprivation Induces Insulin Resistance in Multiple Metabolic Pathways in Healthy Subjects.”
Esther Donga, Marieke van Dijk, J. Gert van Dijk, Nienke R. Biermasz, Gert-Jan Lammers, Klaas W. van Kralingen, Eleonara P. M. Corssmit, and Johannes A. Romijn
J. Clin. Endocrinol. Metab., Rapid Electronic Publication first published on Apr 6, 2010 as doi:10.1210/jc.2009-2430

Source: The Endocrine Society.

Written by: Catharine Paddock, PhD