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Sleep quality can have an effect on one’s diabetes type 2 diabetes risk, according to new research. yngsa/Getty Images
  • Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that can lead to long-term damage to the body.
  • Certain factors will increase people’s risk of developing type two diabetes, including obesity and high lipid levels.
  • Data from a recent study found that poor sleep can contribute to diabetes risk factors, thus also increasing the risk for people to develop type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes impacts an estimated 462 million individuals all over the world. While people can take steps to manage their diabetes and practice good health habits, some people can reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the first place.

However, researchers are still working to understand all the risk factors for developing type two diabetes.

A​ study published in The Science of Diabetes Self-Management and Care looked at how sleep quality and people’s perception of their sleep quality may increase someone’s risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

Not everyone develops diabetes, and doctors can’t always predict who will or won’t develop the condition.

Certain risk factors may increase people’s risk for type two diabetes. Some elements, like genetics, cannot be altered; however, people can control other factors to help reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

For example, obesity and a sedentary lifestyle are risk factors. People with obesity can undergo medical treatment, change their eating habits, and activity levels to help them maintain a healthy weight and reap the benefits of physical activity.

Some data suggest that factors like inflammation, high blood pressure, high fasting blood sugar levels, and abnormal cholesterol levels may all contribute to someone’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Researchers are still working to understand how risk factors work together and how people can best control these risk factors to reduce their risk for diabetes.

Sleep is an essential component of health. Certain tests can objectively measure sleep components, but how people interpret their sleep quality also matters.

Researchers in this study wanted to understand how people’s reports of trouble sleeping and objective sleep measures impacted specific type 2 diabetes risk factors. Researchers included just over 1,000 participants in their analysis.

UniSA researcher and study author Dr. Lisa Matricciani explained the setup for the study to Medical News Today:

“Our study examined the association between different dimensions of sleep and risk factors for type 2 diabetes (BMI, cholesterol, and inflammation). The dimensions of sleep included self-report troubled sleep and actigraphy-derived sleep parameters (measures of sleep that are recorded using a wrist-worn activity monitor).”

Researchers asked participants how often they had trouble sleeping. Then they monitored participants to measure sleep characteristics, such as how long they slept and how the length changed daily. They further collected info on cardiometabolic factors by doing blood work and calculating each participant’s body mass index (BMI).

The researchers found that both the subjective and objective measurements of sleep may influence cardiometabolic health and thus potentially increase the risk for the development of type 2 diabetes.

“Our results suggest that both self-report[ed] and actigraphy-derived dimensions of sleep may be associated with risk factors for type 2 diabetes,” said Dr. Matricciani.

“[T]hree clinical implications [of this study] include: (1) sleep may be important for cardiometabolic health (2) sleep is multidimensional, meaning that it consists of a range of sleep characteristics (duration, timing, quality, and variability) (3) It is important to consider all characteristics of sleep for health, including the perceived sleep experience.”
— D​r. Lisa Matricciani

I​t is difficult to conclude that poor sleep quality alone contributes to someone’s risk for type 2 diabetes. However, the results from this study indicate that both perceptions of sleep quality and objective measurements of sleep quality should be included as components in further research.

Registered nurse and certified diabetes care and education specialist Angie Victorio noted to MNT that the study “suggested that self-reported sleep may be as strong as sleep monitors (actigraphic measures) in predicting cardiometabolic health.”

“I think that it’s important for a diabetes care provider to really listen to a patient when they say they’re having poor sleep quality because it can help explain recent increases in blood glucose levels…[as the] study noted, self-reported sleep has limitations of maybe reflecting other sleep disorders and/or psychological issues, making it hard to link poor sleep quality directly to a specific health disorder (like diabetes).”
— Angie Victorio, registered nurse

The study did have limitations. First, most study participants were female and mothers, so there is likely a need for a more balanced study group in the future.

Second, there were limits based on the data collection methods. For example, measuring people’s perception of problems sleeping may not address different aspects of sleep problems like trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.

Based on the nature of the study, it cannot determine that poor sleep quality causes type 2 diabetes.

Researchers accounted for some variables, but they acknowledge that some participants may have had certain co-morbidities or underlying sleep disorders that could have impacted the results.

“Further efforts are needed to better understand what determines and influences different dimensions of sleep, particularly the subjective sleep experience. Our study was cross-sectional and so longitudinal and/or experimental studies are needed to better understand cause-and-effect relationships.”
— Dr. Lisa Matricciani