Researchers connect poor sleep and uncontrolled blood sugar in type 2 diabetics

Individuals with type 2 diabetes who sleep poorly at night may be more insulin resistant and have a harder time controlling their blood sugar levels than those who sleep well, according to a new study from a team of University of Chicago researchers.

The findings could have major significance for many diabetics, as poor blood sugar control often leads to a greater risk of health complications and reduced quality of life, the researchers wrote in their report, which was published in the journal Diabetes Care.

For the study, the investigators monitored 40 diabetics while they slept over the course of six nights. Participants provided blood samples before the start of the investigation and after each night's sleep. The researchers examined these samples for glucose and insulin levels.

The results showed that those who experienced restless sleep or insomnia had significantly worse markers of blood sugar control. The glucose levels of poor sleepers were 23 percent higher and their insulin levels were elevated by 48 percent. The researchers calculated that this meant poor sleepers were 82 percent more insulin resistant than those who slept soundly.

More inquiry is needed to determine if helping individuals with type 2 diabetes get a better night sleep can improve insulin levels and blood sugar control, the researchers said. They plan to conduct further studies to see if this is the case.

"For someone who already has diabetes, adding a sleep treatment intervention, whether it's treating sleep apnea or treating insomnia, may be an additional help for them to control their disease," said Kristen Knutson, who led the investigation. "Anything that we can do to help people improve their ability to control their glucose will help their lives in the long run."