Sleep Disturbances and Risk of Diabetes




Diabetes Care

Related Monographs

Consumer Data: Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2
Professional Data: Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2


Diabetes mellitus is a chronic condition where there is less insulin than what the body needs. This can be low insulin, a problem with the release of insulin, insulin that cannot work in the cells that need it, or insulin that is inactivated before it is able to function. Diabetes mellitus is a disease in which the body does not produce or does not use insulin effectively. It is not simply hyperglycemia, or too much glucose (sugar) in the blood. Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas by the beta cells in the Islets of Langerhans. The release of insulin by these special cells is regulated by the amount of glucose in the blood. It is responsible for transporting glucose (from carbohydrates) into the cells for energy production. After a meal, when blood sugar increases, insulin release increases. Between meals, when blood sugar is low, insulin release is low. Insulin is released from the pancreas directly into the liver where some is used and some is broken down and eliminated from the body. The rest is released into the general blood circulation. By helping to move glucose into the cells, insulin decreases blood sugar. Insulin also decreases the breakdown of stored fat and builds triglycerides. Insulin is involved in the production of protein. The proper growth and development of children is dependent on insulin.

Diabetes can affect people of any age. It increases the risk of chronic conditions like heart disease, retinopathy (a disease of the retina) and blindness, peripheral neuropathies (a disease of the nervous system), circulation problems that can lead to amputation, problems with the immune system, and skin ulcers and poor wound healing.

A recent study investigated the role of sleep deprivation in Type 2 diabetes. Taking place in Sweden, 6,599 non-diabetic men were followed for an average of about 15 years. The incidence of diabetes was compared to incidences of sleep disturbances. Researchers also measured resting heart rates of these men. About 9% of these men reported sleep problems or regular use of sleeping medications. A total of 281 men developed diabetes. After adjusting the results for age, family history, and risk factors among others, the researchers found that resting heart rate, use of sleeping medications, and difficulties falling asleep were all associated with diabetes risk The authors concluded that, “sleep disturbances and, possibly, elevated resting heart rate, in middle-aged men, are associated with an increased risk of diabetes.”1


1. Nilsson PM, et al. Incidence of Diabetes in Middle-Aged Men Is Related to Sleep Disturbances. Diabetes Care. Oct 2004;27:2464-9.