- Lack of sleep is one of the potential risk factors for diabetes
- Eventual deprivation affects levels of hormones and metabolism
- Less sleep elevates the level of stress hormones, that further hinders the functioning of insulin
With the rapid increase in incidence of diabetes, the metabolic disorder is fast gaining the status of an epidemic in India. According to estimates of the International Diabetes Foundation, India has a mammoth over 65 million people with diabetes and still rising. While genetic predisposition, lifestyle, food habits, physical activity (or the lack of it) are some of the commonly acknowledged risk factors of diabetes, inadequate sleep or disturbed sleeping patterns is a factor that is often not sufficiently underlined.
As we observe World Diabetes Day, doctors at Columbia Asia Hospital, Ahmedabad say that with changing nature of work involving night jobs and rising levels of stress, more and more people are suffering from sleep deprivation. This is a key factor that is contributing along with obesity and lack of physical exercise to the rising incidence of diabetes.
While skipping sleep or reducing its duration apparently seems just a short term disturbance, the long-run impact of this pattern can lead to diabetes. Additionally, sleep deprivation can further lower the blood sugar levels of diabetics.
“Our lifestyles have undergone major shift in the past 20 years, so have our work schedules and nature of work. Today lives are governed by a mad rush to meet deadlines, high levels of stress, long working hours as well as long hours spent travelling to work. Amidst all this, while we cannot compromise on our work, we tend to negotiate with our sleep. However, this bargain posses an increased risk of diabetes. It is essential for an adult to get a minimum of 7-8 hours of sleep. However, most people tell us today that they hardly manage to catch 5-6 hours of sleep, piling a huge sleep debt behind. It is important to note that sleep is equally important for health as food or exercise. Deprivation in sleep can affect the hormones and metabolism in a way that can trigger diabetes. Lack of sleep eventually leads to impairment of glucose tolerance that further affects the blood sugar level, thereby leading to diabetes,” said Dr. Bhargav Solanki
Besides, chronic sleep deprivation also elevates the stress hormones, cortisol. High level of stress can further lead to insulin resistance due to which the body fails to utilize insulin hormones that transfer glucose to cells to provide energy. This ultimately leads to diabetes.
“Diabetes is a condition where the body suffers from an insulin disorder. Either the pancreas fail to produce enough insulin, or the body’s cells lose capability to utilize existent insulin to control blood sugar levels. In cases when the body is not producing enough insulin, the hormone is administered externally. Now, if the patient develops insulin resistance due to high level of stress hormones, caused by lack of sleep, the body will fail to utilize insulin and suffer from the dreadful effects of high or low blood sugar. This can cause harm to the organs such as eyes, kidneys or heart. Therefore, while lack of sleep can initiate the risk of diabetes in a person, it can do worse with the people who are already diabetic,” said Dr. Solanki.
The association of diabetes and sleep go hand in hand. While sleeplessness can trigger the development of diabetes, the disease on the other hand can hinder normal sleep in patients. In case of high sugar levels, kidneys try to get rid of it by urinating. This further keeps the patients awake, restricting the duration as well as the quality of sleep.
“While sleeping is important to keep diabetes at bay, keeping the blood sugar levels is equally important in patients with diabetes. Hence, we have diabetics often complaining about frequently waking up at night,” added Dr. Solanki.
It is therefore essential to catch sufficient hours of sleep not only to stay healthy, fresh and energetic but also to lower the risk of diabetes. Sleep not only reduces stress and tiredness, thereby relaxing the body but also helps in producing appropriate levels of insulin.