One night of sleep deprivation and 6 months on a high-fat diet could both impair insulin sensitivity to a similar degree, according to research presented at the Obesity Society Annual Meeting in Los Angeles, CA.

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Sleepless nights and a high-fat diet can both damage insulin sensitivity.

This demonstrates the importance of a good night’s sleep on health.

Sleep deficiency and a high-fat diet are known to lead to impaired insulin sensitivity, but it was previously unknown which leads to more severe insulin resistance.

Josiane Broussard, PhD, and colleagues from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, CA, used a canine model to examine whether sleep deprivation and a high-fat diet affect insulin sensitivity in similar ways.

When the body becomes less sensitive to insulin, in other words, insulin resistant, it needs to produce more insulin to keep blood sugar stable.

This may eventually lead to type 2 diabetes, where the body’s insulin response does not work properly and there is too much sugar in the blood.

Diabetes entails a number of serious complications, including heart disease. Individuals with obesity are more likely to develop insulin resistance and subsequently, diabetes.

The researchers measured insulin sensitivity in eight male dogs before and after diet-induced obesity.

First, they deprived the dogs of 1 night’s sleep, and then used an IV glucose tolerance test to measure insulin sensitivity. They compared the results with those of dogs that had a normal night’s sleep. Then the dogs were fed a high-fat diet for 6 months, before being tested again.

One night of sleep deprivation reduced insulin sensitivity by 33%, whereas 6 months of high-fat diet, reduced it by 21%. Once the high-fat diet had caused insulin insensitivity, 1 night of sleep deprivation did not impair the insulin sensitivity further.

The study suggests that one night of total sleep deprivation may be as detrimental to insulin sensitivity as 6 months on a high-fat diet. It demonstrates the importance of adequate sleep in maintaining blood sugar levels and reducing risk for metabolic diseases like obesity and diabetes.

The findings suggest a similar mechanism by which both insufficient sleep and a high-fat diet induce insulin resistance. It also seems that after high-fat feeding, insulin sensitivity cannot be reduced further by sleep loss.

Apart from impaired insulin sensitivity, sleep deprivation can lead to increased food intake and overall increased risk for metabolic diseases.

Dr. Caroline Apovian, a fellow and spokesperson for The Obesity Society, says:

It is critical for health practitioners to emphasize the importance of sleep to their patients. Many patients understand the importance of a balanced diet, but they might not have a clear idea of how critical sleep is to maintaining equilibrium in the body.”

Dr. Broussard calls for further research to examine the pathways that account for the interactions between sleep and diet and their relationship to insulin sensitivity, and also to determine whether insulin sensitivity improves after recovery sleep.

Through understanding the causes and complications of obesity and identifying the relevant mechanisms involved, scientists hope to find keys to its prevention or cure.

Medical News Today recently reported on research that suggested 6.5 hours a night might be a healthy amount of sleep.