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The quality and amount of sleep you’re getting can greatly affect your risk of developing diabetes. FG Trade/Getty Images
  • A new study indicates that sleeping for too long or too short a time is associated with diabetes risk.
  • Poor quality sleep also increases the risk of developing diabetes.
  • People who slept longer than 10 hours were at greatest risk.
  • This link may be related to impaired insulin production or utilization due to sleepiness.
  • Sleep experts advise practicing good sleep hygiene to reduce your risk.

According to new research presented at ENDO 2023 in Chicago, Illinois, the duration of sleep, as well as its quality, are linked with the risk of developing diabetes.

Getting fewer than six hours or more than 10 hours of sleep appears to put people at increased risk for developing the condition.

Longer duration of sleep presented the highest degree of risk.

Having poor quality sleep may also increase people’s risk.

To conduct their research, the study’s lead author, Dr. Wonjin Kim, an associate professor at CHA University School of Medicine in Seoul, South Korea, and his team of researchers examined data from 8,816 healthy people participating in the Korean Genome and Epidemiology Study (KoGES)-Ansung and Ansan Cohort Study.

This large, ongoing consortium project, which is being carried out by the Korea National Institute of Health, includes six prospective cohort studies.

Its goal is to create healthcare guidelines for non-communicable diseases, including:

Its data has been used in several studies.

For the current study, people’s sleep duration was divided into four groups: <6, 6-7, 8-9, and 9 hours per day. Sleep quality was also measured among those who slept more than 9 hours each day.

The study participants were followed up for 14 years and during this time, 18% of people received a diabetes diagnosis.

According to Kim, they observed a U-shaped relationship between the hours slept and the risk of developing diabetes, which he said indicates that both short and sleep duration might affect people’s risk.

“Specifically, we found that subjects who slept for more than 10 hours/day showed the greatest risk,” said Kim.

“Additionally,” he added, “we discovered that the longer sleep duration group showed a decreased insulin glycogenic index, which is a marker of insulin secretory function.”

Kim told Healthline that, in his opinion, the association between sleep and diabetes risk might exist because of both insulin resistance and decreased insulin secretory function.

“Considering that the main pathogenesis of type 2 [diabetes] is insulin resistance and impaired insulin secretion, we hypothesize that the increased risk of DM during long sleep duration may be due to the deterioration of pancreatic beta cell function caused by excessive sleepiness.

“Therefore, both short and/or long sleep duration, as well as poor sleep quality, might be a risk for diabetes,” he explained.

Susan Miller, who is a Registered Polysomnographic Technologist (RPSGT) and lead researcher at SleepMattressHQ, said that, based on this study, there are several steps you can take to improve your sleep.

Aim for optimal sleep duration

“The study suggests that both short sleep duration (≤5 hours) and long sleep duration (≥10 hours) are associated with an increased risk of diabetes,” said Miller. “Therefore, it’s important to aim for a sleep duration of around 7-9 hours per night for most adults.”

She noted that this range is what’s generally recommended for optimal health.

Keep a consistent sleep schedule

Maintaining a regular schedule helps to regulate your body’s circadian rhythm, which will, in turn, help you get good rest. “Try to get to bed and wake up at the same time every day to maintain a consistent sleep routine,” she advised.

Create a sleep-friendly environment

Miller suggests keeping your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet. You’ll also want to make sure your bedding and pillows are comfortable and that you have a mattress that provides adequate support.

Practice relaxation techniques

“Engage in relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, gentle stretching, or taking a warm bath before bedtime,” said Miller. “These relaxation techniques can reduce stress and prepare your body for sleep.”

Limit stimulants and electronic devices

Miller suggests avoiding substances like alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine near bedtime since they can interfere with your sleep. “Additionally, limit the use of electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops before bed,” she said, “as the blue light emitted from these devices can disrupt your sleep-wake cycle.”

Live a healthy lifestyle

Finally, Miller said it’s important to make good lifestyle choices. “Engage in regular physical activity, eat a balanced diet, and manage stress effectively,” she suggested. Miller further noted that sleep deprivation is often associated with unhealthy dietary choices, sedentary behavior, and decreased physical activity. “These factors can contribute to weight gain, obesity, and diabetes,” she said.