After a long, sleepless night, do you find yourself upping your coffee and sugar intake the next day to compensate? Yup, we’ve all been there. Sleep deprivation has long been correlated with eating more, exercising less and increasing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
But is it really the lack of sleep that's taking a toll on your metabolism, or the food you’re consuming? A team of researchers at Toho University Graduate School of Medicine in Japan set out to find out, and concluded— in a study that was recently published in the “American Journal of Physiology—Endocrinology and Metabolism — that losing six houses of sleep could put you at risk for developing diabetes.
During the study the researchers examined two groups of mice. Both groups had access to unlimited fatty foods and sugar water. One group was kept awake for six hours each night to replicate sleep deprivation—and while that may sound like a lot, watch three episodes of “the Great British Baking Show,” and you’re already halfway there.
The control group of mice was allowed to sleep as desired. During the sleep/wake period, the animals had limited opportunity for physical activity, much like most humans hanging out in their homes.
The researchers measured the mice’s glucose levels and fat content of the liver immediately after the trial period, and found that blood sugar levels were significantly higher in the sleep deprivation group after just one six-hour session.
Triglyceride (fat) levels and the production of glucose in the liver also increased in that same amount of time, which is bad news for your long-term health, as elevated liver triglycerides are associated with insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes. In addition, lack of sleep changed the expression of enzymes that regulate metabolism in the liver. The researchers hope their findings will lead to "intervention studies designed to prevent sleep deprivation-induced hepatic steatosis and insulin resistance” in the future.
While mouse studies are never entirely conclusive when it comes to human beings, and losing a single night’s sleep isn’t the end of the world, there’s ample evidence that missing six hours of sleep consistently has serious consequences for your metabolism, your liver, and your endocrine health. The good news is, there are lots of simple adjustments you can make to your lifestyle to make falling asleep and staying asleep easier. Try some of our experts’ proven tips tonight.