Macho sleepers run diabetes risk

3 minute read

Getting a solid amount of shuteye has yet another thing going for it.

Your Back Page correspondent has always been highly suspicious of folks who claim to only need only a few hours of sleep at night.

Former UK prime minister Margaret Thatcher, for example, reckoned she got by on just four hours of kip on weeknights while the once and quite possibly future president of the US, Donald Trump, err … trumps that by maintaining he only needs three hours a night. Which sounds like a load of “covfefe” to us.

The aroma of braggadocio is pungent. However, even if such assertions were true, it turns out that folks who do actually regularly sleep for only a short number of hours per night could be facing a significant health risk as a result.

According to a study released this week by researchers from Sweden’s Uppsala University, people who sleep less than six hours daily have a “notably higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to those who slept seven or eight hours”.

What’s more, this increased risk was evident even for those who had the kind of healthier diets usually associated with reducing type 2 diabetes risk.

The study, published in JAMA Network Open, analysed results gathered over a decade from nearly 250,000 British adults sourced from the UK Biobank.

The participants were categorised into four sleep duration groups: normal (seven to eight hours per day), mild short (six hours), moderate short (five), and extreme short (three to four).

Their dietary habits were also evaluated based on population-specific consumption of red meat, processed meat, fruits, vegetables, and fish, resulting in a healthy diet score ranging from zero (unhealthiest) to five (healthiest).

What the boffins found was that each hour of sleep duration below seven hours per day was associated with a 1.09-fold likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes and that participants with daily sleep duration below seven to eight hours demonstrated a hazard ratio of 1.21 for the disease. 

While acknowledging that the study primarily showed a correlation rather than a causation, the researchers did point to earlier experiments that have shown that impaired glucose tolerance test responses and indicators of insulin resistance are associated with acute sleep restriction.

“Previous research has shown that repeated short daily rest increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, while healthy dietary habits such as regularly eating fruit and vegetables can reduce the risk,” the authors said in a media release. 

“However, it has remained unclear whether people who sleep too little can reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by eating healthily.”

They concluded more study was needed to further unravel the complex interplay between diet, sleep patterns and type 2 diabetes, but noted that this study suggested prioritising sleep as a key factor in mitigating disease risk. And to be fair to insomniacs and the parents of wakeful children, the authors acknowledged that this was not always possible.

Having said that, choosing to sleep for just a few hours a night (or saying you do) just to prove what a tough guy or gal you are, does also appear to be a pretty stupid thing to do.

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