Inadequate sleep poses higher risk for type 2 diabetes, regardless of healthy diet

A recent study published in the journal JAMA Network Open has revealed a concerning link between short sleep duration and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Research conducted by a team led by Christian Benedict, Associate Professor at Uppsala University, indicates that individuals who consistently sleep for only three to five hours per day may face a higher likelihood of developing this metabolic disorder.

The study, which investigated the impact of chronic sleep deprivation on type 2 diabetes, emphasizes the inability of healthy eating alone to compensate for inadequate sleep. “I generally recommend prioritizing sleep, although I understand it’s not always possible, especially as a parent of four teenagers,” stated Benedict.

Type 2 diabetes poses significant health challenges, affecting the body’s ability to process sugar (glucose) and leading to elevated blood sugar levels due to hindered insulin absorption. With over 462 million people worldwide suffering from this disease, it represents a growing public health concern, potentially causing severe damage to nerves and blood vessels over time.

Diana Noga, a sleep researcher at the Department of Pharmaceutical Biosciences at Uppsala University, highlighted the unclear relationship between insufficient sleep and the potential for healthy eating to mitigate the risk of type 2 diabetes. Using data from the UK Biobank, one of the world’s largest population databases, the research team followed nearly half a million participants over a 10-year period. Their findings revealed that a daily sleep duration of three to five hours was associated with a heightened risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Furthermore, the study demonstrated that while healthy dietary habits were linked to a reduced risk of the disease, individuals who maintained such habits but slept less than six hours per day still faced an elevated risk of type 2 diabetes.

The research’s implications challenge the notion that a healthy diet can fully compensate for inadequate sleep in terms of the risk of type 2 diabetes. Benedict stressed, “Our results are the first to question whether a healthy diet can compensate for lack of sleep in terms of the risk of type 2 diabetes. They should not cause concern, but instead be seen as a reminder that sleep plays an important role in health.”