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Sleep Duration Associated with Glycemic Metabolism in Men and Women

Oct 9, 2015

Short and long sleep duration have negative effect on insulin sensitivity in men, increase in beta-cell function in women

Over the past decade, there have been many studies done on the association of short sleep duration and type 2 diabetes (T2DM). Several meta-analyses have shown that poor sleep, which is indicated by having less than 6 or 7 hours of sleep per night is associated with an increased risk of T2DM.


During the 51st European Association for the Study of Diabetes Annual Meeting, Femke Rutters, PhD, senior researcher at the department of epidemiology and biostatistics at VUmc, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and colleagues seek out to evaluate the association of sleep duration with insulin sensitivity and beta-cell function based on 788 (43% male, age 44±8 years) of the 1,259 clinically healthy participants (both male and female) in the multi-center European Relationship between Insulin Sensitivity and Cardiovascular Disease (EGIR-RISC) study. This was a cross-sectional study that evaluates insulin sensitivity by measuring the 2-h hyperinsulinemic-euglycemic clamp and measuring beta-cell function from the 75g oral glucose tolerance test. To analyze the association between sleep duration, insulin sensitivity, and beta cell function in men and women, these researchers used multiple linear regression.

The time that the participants sleep was measured using the accelerometer, in which the participants wear it from 3-8 days. Participants would remove it whenever they go to sleep at night, then put it back on when they wake up in the morning. The average sleep duration in these participants was 7.2 ± 1 hour in men, 7.3 ± 2 hours in women.

Results showed that for the fasting plasma glucose levels in women, short sleep and long sleep is associated with lower level of glucose, whereas in the men, there is an opposite effect and they have higher level of glucose. They found no significant association for the women in insulin sensitivity and short sleep duration. However, for men, those who were short sleepers, which is having approximately < 6 hours of sleep, or those who have more than 8 hours of sleep, have lower insulin sensitivity when compared to men who sleep from just 7-8 hours per night.

For beta-cell function, the association is reversed again for men and women. Short sleep in men has a negative effect with beta-cell function. Whereas in women, short and long duration of sleep were associated with better beta-cell function compared to women who were average sleepers.

Short sleep duration has more negative effect in men than in women. Rutters speculated that it might be due to women being more effective in having more deep sleep in a short amount of time than men.

Rutters and colleagues concluded that short and long sleep duration were associated with decreased insulin sensitivity in healthy men. Whereas in healthy women, they were associated with increased beta-cell function. Further studies are warranted to study potential cause and effect in the relationship between sleep duration and glycemic metabolism. Moreover, there were several issues during the meeting that raised the question of whether the quality of sleep can increase risk of T2DM in healthy patients. This question, however, was not answered due to lack of funding. The study was also not set out to measure the quality of sleep in these participants.

Practice Pearls:

  • Poor sleep duration has been associated with increased risk for type 2 diabetes.
  • Short and long sleep duration associated with decreased insulin sensitivity in men.
  • Short and long sleep duration associated with increased beta-cell function in women.
  • http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/851904

Rutters F, Natali A, Balkau B, Besson H, Walker M, Dekker JM. Oral Presentation #192: The association between sleep duration and insulin sensitivity: the EGIR-RISC study. Presented at: 51st EASD Annual Meeting; Sep 14-18, 2015; Stockholm.