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Experts say a comfortable bed is one way to help make sure you get quality sleep. Anna Tabakova/Stocksy
  • Researchers say how much sleep we get and how well we sleep are factors in type 2 diabetes risk.
  • They report that people who sleep more than 10 hours and those who sleep less than 6 hours have the highest risk of developing the disease.
  • They explain that sleep has a direct impact on insulin resistance and secretion.

How much sleep we get – and the quality of that sleep – can play a big role in determining our risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Getting fewer than 6 or more than 10 hours of sleep or poor quality of sleep raises the risk of diabetes, according to new research presented at the ENDO 2023 conference in Chicago.

A team of researchers led by the study’s lead author, Dr. Wonjin Kim, an associate professor at CHA University School of Medicine in Seoul, South Korea, examined data from 8,816 healthy people participating in the Korean Genome and Epidemiology Study (KoGES)-Ansung and Ansan Cohort Study.

The findings, which haven’t been published yet in a peer reviewed journal, focus on devising treatment guidelines for preventing or controlling conditions including diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular diseases.

The researchers divided study participants into four groups: those who slept fewer than six hours a night, those who sleep six to seven hours a night, those who slept eight to nine hours, and those who slept more than nine hours.

During the course of the 14-year follow-up period, 18% of participants developed type 2 diabetes.

Researchers reported that participants who slept more than 10 hours faced the greatest risk of developing type 2 diabetes, but those who got less than 6 hours also had a high risk of developing diabetes.

Poor sleep also proved a major risk factor for developing diabetes.

The ideal amount of sleep to help prevent diabetes is seven hours a night, according to the researchers.

The study builds on previous research demonstrating that sleep duration and quality has a direct impact on insulin resistance and secretion of insulin, experts say.

The hormone regulates the movement of blood glucose, or sugar, into cells, which use it as energy.

When sugar cannot enter cells, too much glucose collects in the blood and the body cannot use it for energy. That can lead to flu-like fatigue, urinary tract infections, numbness and tingling in the hands, arms, legs, and feet due to circulation and nerve damage.

If blood sugar rises or falls too much, it can quickly lead to medical emergencies, including seizures and loss of consciousness.

Keeping blood glucose within target levels can prevent serious long-term complications, including cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, nerve damage, eye damage and vision loss, and kidney disease.

Dr. Thomas Donner, the director of the Johns Hopkins Diabetes Center in Maryland, said the study underscores the importance of paying close attention to sleep patterns as a form of preventive medicine to reduce the risk of diabetes.

“This study really shows the link between how much we sleep, and how well, and the risk of diabetes,” Donner told Medical News Today. “If someone’s not getting enough sleep, or sleeping too much, something’s going on that we need to know about.”

For instance, sleep apnea, which reduces blood oxygen levels because of blockages reducing air to the lungs, can rob people of the restful sleep they need to reduce stress, and heightened stress levels prevent the body from naturally reducing blood sugar, he said.

Donner advises that those sleeping too much, too little, or not sleeping well should undergo a sleep study to help determine the cause and effective treatments.

You can improve your quantity and quality of sleep by keeping a regular sleep schedule, keeping your bedroom quiet, cool and dark, and ensuring your bed is comfortable.

If you’re having trouble getting restful sleep, try to exercise more during the day and before retiring for the night, practice relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises, stretching, or warm baths. Go easy on the caffeine and alcohol intake and limit screen time before you go to bed.

Type 2 diabetes can appear at any age, but it is more likely to occur after the age of 45. More than 37 million people in the United States have diabetes, mostly type 2, according to the American Diabetes Association.

Most Americans are sleep-deprived. A June study by the National Sleep Foundation found that 63% of American adults do not get enough sleep needed for good health, safety, and optimum performance at work.