We all feel better after a good night’s sleep, but increasingly, evidence is suggesting that not getting enough good-quality sleep could increase our risk of type 2 diabetes, obesity and other metabolic disorders.

A new study, published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, suggests that both the prevention and treatment of these disorders may benefit from addressing poor sleep.

Metabolic health in humans is dependent on a mixture of behavioral factors and genetic predisposition. Dietary habits and physical activity are both known to influence our metabolism, and previous studies have also shown that some metabolic-related problems, such as disturbed glucose metabolism and obesity, are provoked by a loss of sleep.

The reason why metabolic disorders are so influenced by sleep patterns seems to be due to sleep influencing the body’s ability to control food intake, metabolize glucose and maintain energy balance.

The new study reviews this existing evidence and makes recommendations for new targets and strategies in the prevention and treatment of these sleep-related forms of metabolic disease.

Among the findings, the review found that disruption of the body’s natural sleep cycle – as experienced by shift workers – has a pronounced link with suffering metabolic health, as well as rates of chronic illness and early death.

girl reading from an ipad in bedShare on Pinterest
Many people may not be getting enough sleep due to the use of devices at night, like tablets and portable video games.

The authors also found that aspects of our modern lifestyle are eroding sleep quality. They believe that many people are not getting enough sleep due to the use of devices at night, like tablets and portable video games.

“Metabolic health, in addition to genetic predisposition, is largely dependent on behavioural factors such as dietary habits and physical activity,” say the researchers.

“In the past few years, sleep loss as a disorder characterising the 24-hour lifestyle of modern societies has increasingly been shown to represent an additional behavioural factor adversely affecting metabolic health.”

The researchers recommend that sleep education programs and cognitive behavioral therapies promoting improved sleep hygiene may help people whose lack of sleep is at risk of affecting their health.

For other specific sleeping problems, such as sleep apnea, the authors note that treatment substantially improves various metabolic factors, including glucose homeostasis, dyslipidemia, hypertension and obesity.

In addition, the review suggests that the improvement of environmental conditions, such as avoiding noise and light during sleep times, can also boost the restorative powers of good-quality sleep.

“These findings open up new strategies for targeted interventions aimed at the present epidemic of the metabolic syndrome and related diseases,” says the researchers.

Ongoing and future studies will show whether interventions to improve sleep duration and quality can prevent or even reverse adverse metabolic traits. Meanwhile, on the basis of existing evidence, health care professionals can be safely recommended to motivate their patients to enjoy sufficient sleep at the right time of day.”

In 2013, Medical News Today reported on a study – published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences – that found when people do not get enough sleep they tend to eat more, which causes them to gain weight.