According to a new study by researchers at the University of Chicago Medical Center, lack of deep sleep in young adults interferes with proper use of insulin by the body and increases the risk of diabetes.
The study involved nine healthy volunteers aged 20 and 31. The five men and four women were all lean, meaning that they did not have excess weight, which is another risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes. The researchers allowed the volunteers to have undisturbed sleep for 8.5 hours during the first two days of the study.
However the same volunteers were then subjected to disturbed sleep for three consecutive nights thereafter. Researchers monitored the sleep patterns of the volunteers and just when it appeared that they were drifting into slow-wave sleep or deep sleep, they were disturbed by sounds from speakers.
The total sleep time was not altered, but researchers ensured the volunteers did not have deep sleep, which is considered “to be the most restorative sleep stage.” At the end of each night, the subjects were given an intra-venous infusion of glucose and levels of glucose and insulin were measured.
It was found that suppression of deep sleep or slow-wave sleep for just three nights was enough to impact insulin sensitivity in these young adults. There was 25 percent less insulin sensitivity in the volunteers, which meant they needed more insulin to break down the same amount of glucose.
Furthermore insulin levels did not increase to compensate for more demand, increasing blood sugar levels by 23 percent in the participants.
“Previous studies from our lab have demonstrated many connections between chronic, partial, sleep deprivation, changes in appetite, metabolic abnormalities, obesity, and diabetes risk,” said lead researcher senior author Eve Van Cauter, professor of medicine at the University of Chicago.
“Our findings raise the question of whether age-related changes in sleep quality contribute to the development of these metabolic alterations.”