Poor health outcomes – namely higher blood pressure and being overweight – have traditionally been linked to lack of adequate sleep. However, a new study out of Brigham and Women’s Hospital shows that insufficient sleep is a risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes. The study was conducted over roughly four weeks with participants getting 10 hours of sleep per night the first six nights. The last three weeks, each participant only slept for 5.6 hours per night.
The three weeks of inadequate sleep caused a disturbance to the participants’ normal sleep-wake rhythm, impacting body temperature, blood pressure and the secretion of hormones. Consequently, their bodies stopped producing enough insulin after a meal, which sent their blood glucose levels askew. In fact, in just three weeks, the blood glucose of some of the participants was high enough to be considered prediabetic.
This study highlights how, in many cases, small behavior changes can be instrumental in either completely preventing or delaying the onset and progression of chronic diseases. It also points out the importance of getting plenty of sleep. Research that provides valuable insights combined with evidence-based programs, such as the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program, will be imperative to controlling the diabetes crisis in our country. If we intend to truly bend the cost curve, we must address chronic diseases – the number one cost driver in health care spending today – through investing in proven solutions that will, at the same time and more importantly, improve the health outcomes of individuals.