Being the number 1 cause of kidney failure, adult blindness, lower limb amputations, as well as a leading cause for many other illnesses and pathologies, diabetes is already known as a global pandemic.
Let’s talk some numbers:
According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) in the US, 37.3 million people have diabetes. 28.7 million of them are diagnosed, and the other 8.5 million are undiagnosed. 23% of diabetic adults are undiagnosed.
According to the WHO (World Health Organization) about 422 million people around the world have diabetes. 1.5 million deaths are directly attributed to diabetes each year.
Diabetes is actually the ultimate example of the connection between the core components of modern medicine: the relationship between lifestyle (nutrition, activity, etc.) and physical-medical state. The incredible influence of food over hormonal balances, or the impact of stress over obesity, and many more connections that are known today due to extensive research related to diabetes.
And what about sleep?
Well, not surprisingly the quality of sleep, as well as its duration are key factors of obesity and type 2 diabetes. Recent studies have been able to show significance of these relationships, concluding that short sleep duration is an independent risk factor for the development of type 2 diabetes (and obesity), and also proved damage weight-loss treatments.
Few mechanisms are now known to partially explain the links between sleep and insulin resistance, beta cell function, hormonal homeostasis, energy balances etc.
The role of changes in sleep habits is still being examined in order to come up with more significant evidence, yet early evidence suggests a beneficial effect of improved sleeping habits over diabetes prevention, as well as successful weight-loss treatments and more balanced blood sugar levels. These, of course, are being examined under the terms of overall lifestyle adaptations, including nutritional changes, calories restrictions, physical activity levels, etc.
Some of the mentioned mechanisms are stated in the following flowchart:
Leptin: the “satiety hormone” - informs the brain when we’re full, reducing hunger.
Ghrelin: a.k.a the “hunger hormone”, stimulates appetite and informs the brain when it’s time to eat.
Inflammation: standard levels of inflammation rising, more inflammatory molecules are being produced and released to the bloodstream, and the normal function of many organs is being interrupted.
Sympathetic activity: related to the sympathetic nervous system, also known as the “fight or flight” system. When the sympathetic nervous system is stimulated, stress hormones are being produced, energy consumption is redirected towards storage (in the form of fat tissue) and the digestive-nutritional processes are being delayed and harmed.
Antza C, Kostopoulos G, Mostafa S, Nirantharakumar K, Tahrani A. The links between sleep duration, obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus. J Endocrinol. 2021 Dec 13;252(2):125-141. doi: 10.1530/JOE-21-0155. PMID: 34779405; PMCID: PMC8679843.