Research funded by the Department of Health has revealed that losing just 30 minutes of sleep each night during the week can notably increase your risk of developing both obesity and Type 2 diabetes.
We all know that sleep is important, but how important is it? To determine how a lack of sleep might affect the average person, 522 individuals recently diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes were analyzed, with sleep diaries recorded, and height, weight, and waist circumference measured. The study found that those suffering from a lack of sleep were 72% more likely to be obese.
Upon a 12-month follow-up, the researchers calculated that for every 30 minutes of lost sleep, obesity risk increased by 17%, while risk of insulin resistance elevated by 39%.
“While previous studies have shown that short sleep duration is associated with obesity and diabetes, we found that as little as 30 minutes a day sleep debt can have significant effects on obesity and insulin resistance at follow-up,” says lead study author Prof. Shahrad Taheri.
Prof. Taheri explains that the results reinforce the notion that sleep loss is additive and has metabolic consequences:
“Sleep loss is widespread in modern society, but only in the last decade have we realized its metabolic consequences. Our findings suggest that avoiding sleep debt could have positive benefits for waistlines and metabolism and that incorporating sleep into lifestyle interventions for weight loss and diabetes might improve their success.”
The general conclusions are that avoiding sleep debt could help normalize metabolism (leading to weight loss) and prevent diabetes.
“Sleep loss is widespread in modern society, but only in the last decade have we realized its metabolic consequences,” Taheri said. “Our findings suggest that avoiding sleep debt could have positive benefits for waistlines and metabolism and that incorporating sleep into lifestyle interventions for weight loss and diabetes might improve their success.”
Of course this isn’t the only research showcasing how important sleep can be. According to another study, and just three years of poor sleep can cause someone to lose significant cognitive functioning, as much as someone with a serious brain disease like dementia or the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s. In fact, one bad night of sleep can cause your brain to age significantly, reflecting the loss of mental clarity that often accompanies advanced age.
Other researchers have found that sleeping actually helps detoxify the brain, potentially offering clues into dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
So the takeaway? Get some sleep, and try to have a regular sleep schedule where you don’t need to play “catch up.”