Sleep depravity not only affects your mood and energy levels but can also intensify insulin resistance.
Researchers have found new health risks associated with little sleep that connects to obesity and type II diabetes.
A new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed that lack of sleep can hinder fat cells from responding to insulin, the hormone responsible for controlling the metabolism in relation to diabetes.
Scientists studied seven young men and women over the span of eight days allowing them to sleep normally for only four nights. For the remaining nights, subjects were restricted to receiving 4.5 hours of sleep and were placed on a limited diet to allow scientists to monitor their caloric intake.
Blood tests showed that the participants’ insulin sensitivity dropped by an average of 16 percent after being sleep deprived for four days. Test results also showed that their fat cell sensitivity to insulin lowered by 30 percent, which is similar to levels experienced by someone who is obese or diabetic.
“This is the equivalent of metabolically aging someone 10 to 20 years just from four nights of partial sleep restriction, said Matthew Brady, the study’s lead author and a professor of medicine at the University of Chicago. “Fat cells need sleep, and when they don’t get enough sleep, they become metabolically groggy.”
Scientists examined the fat cells even further through a biopsy and found that it took almost three times as much insulin for the cell to release an enzyme known as Akt. Akt is essential in controlling blood sugar levels.
Researchers believe that this type of heightened resistance can cause excess sugar and cholesterol to build up in the blood leading to diabetes and heart disease.
This is the first study of its kind to examine the cellular mechanisms of how insulin sensitivity is connected to lack of sleep, obesity, and diabetes.
“This takes the research on the effect of sleep deprivation on metabolism one step further, by revealing a molecular mechanism involved in the reduction of total body insulin sensitivity,” said Dr. Nathaniel F. Watson, co-director of the University of Washington Medicine Sleep Center who was not involved in the study. “If you want to make a casual argument that short sleep is causing diabetes…one of the key elements is coming up with a physiological mechanism by which this would happen.”
Critics believe that more research is needed on a variety of subjects to concretely link sleep deprivation to insulin sensitivity.
But, researchers agree to an apparent solution, more sleep.
“Until somebody invents a procedure or a pill that’s going to approximate all aspects of sleep, really what you’re left with is what is a pretty simple treatment…just turn off the computer and go to bed earlier,” Watson said.