More or Less than Average Sleep Puts Men at Higher Risk of Diabetes

The Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism published a new study that reports men who sleep too few or too many hours may be at higher risk of developing diabetes.

Diabetes is an epidemic in our American culture, with over 29 million people suffering with the diagnosis, according to the Endocrine Facts and Figures Report by the Endocrine Society.  Lead senior author of the study, Femke Rutters, PhD, of the VU Medical Center in Amsterdam reported that over the last five decades, the average sleep duration for individuals has gone down by 1.5 to 2 hours.  During the same time period, the prevalence of diabetes has doubled.

Dr. Rutters noted that in this study of nearly 800 otherwise healthy people, there were gender-specific relationships between glucose metabolism and sleep duration.  Men who were sleeping too little or too much experienced less insulin response in the body, which reduced their glucose uptake and significantly increased their risk of getting diabetes some time down the road.  Women showed no such association.

This was a cross-sectional study that analyzed the risk of diabetes and sleep duration in 788 individuals.  A subset of people in the EGIR-RISC (European Relationship between Insulin Sensitivity and Cardiovascular Disease) study was also analyzed in this research.  This study included healthy adults between the ages of 30 and 60 years.  Participants were brought in from 19 studies in 14 countries throughout Europe.

Sleep and physical activity were measured using a single-axis accelerometer, which is a device that tracks movement.  Diabetes risk was assessed using a device called a hyperinsulinemic-euglycemic clamp, which measures the efficacy of the body’s use of insulin, the hormone that processes blood sugars.

Throughout the study, it was noted that men who were getting more or less sleep than average were more likely to have insulin resistance, or an inability of the body to process sugars.  The average amount of sleep for men is seven hours.  The men on either side of the spectrum – too little or too much sleep – showed higher sugar levels than the men who were getting the average seven hours of sleep each night.

Of interesting note was that women who slept more or less than the average were more responsive to insulin than the women who slept the average number of hours each night.  Furthermore, they had increased function of the beta cells, which are located in the pancreas and produce insulin.  Researchers believe this means that lack of sleep does not put women at risk of diabetes.

These findings show, for the first time, that there is an opposite effect of sleep loss on diabetes risk between women and men.  Researchers believe this might be the result of having a healthy population in the study, rather than analyzing those known to be at risk for diabetes.  Furthermore, the researchers note that insulin sensitivity and sleep were measured with more sensitive devices than in previous studies.

However, this study shows that even healthy individuals are at risk of diabetes if they are sleeping too much or too little.  This is why improving sleep habits is imperative to overall good health.



Rachael Herman is a professional writer with an extensive background in medical writing, research, and language development. Her hobbies include hiking in the Rockies, cooking, and reading.



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