12:48 pm, Monday 23 April, 2012
A new study, published in the journal Science Translational Medicine revealed that workers who are not getting enough sleep could develop diabetes and associated weight problems. The study involved 21 people, whose daily activities, including their eating and sleeping patterns, were controlled under laboratory conditions.
During the start of the trial, the subjects were allowed to sleep for 10 hours at night. This was followed by three weeks of disruption to their sleeping patterns. Aside from artificially extending the day to 28 hours, participants’ duration of sleep was limited to 6.5 hours, which is equivalent to 5.6 hours in a normal day.
According to SHP Online, the participants’ blood sugar levels significantly increased at once after they had food and between meals. Researchers discovered that lower levels of insulin, which controls blood sugar levels, were produced. The low metabolic rate among participants translated into a significant increase in weight, assuming they had the same sleep disruption for a period of one year.
The findings of this study prompted the researchers to call for more action to reduce the health impact of shift working, which has also been earlier related to breast cancer, prostate cancer, fatigue, heart-disease risk factors, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and pregnancy complications.
According to Dr. Matthew Hobbs, head of research at Diabetes UK, the study showed that under extreme conditions, involving sleep deprivation and ‘tricking the body clock, participants had higher blood glucose level than they were able to sleep normally. He, however, cautioned that the laboratory-testing environment cannot ever replicate real-world conditions. He also said that the results are ‘scientifically invalid’ because of the low number of people who participated in the trial.
“In this study, in order to trick the body clock, participants lived for three consecutive weeks in a dimly-lit lab with no clocks, no windows, and no other indicators of time. For those three weeks, they slept for 6.5 hours per 28 hours. Clearly, this does not equate to the normal experience of shift workers who are able, for example, to use bright lights when not sleeping. The study also involved only 21 people.
For these reasons, it is not possible to conclude that the findings would translate to real conditions for the wider public. What we can say for certain is that by undertaking regular exercise and eating a healthy, balanced diet, everybody, including shift workers, can reduce their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.”