Trouble sleeping? You could be at risk of type 2 diabetes

By Annabel Mansfield

Woman having trouble sleeping.

As the Christmas season ramps up, UniSA researchers are reminding people to prioritise a good night’s sleep, as new research shows that a troubled sleep may be associated with risk factors for type 2 diabetes.

In the first study of its kind, researchers found that people who reported having trouble sleeping were, on average, more likely to have indicators of poor cardiometabolic health – inflammatory markers, cholesterol and body weight – which can contribute to type 2 diabetes.

In Australia, almost one million adults have type 2 diabetes. Globally, type 2 diabetes affects more than 422 million people.

UniSA researcher Dr Lisa Matricciani says different aspects of sleep are associated with risk factors for diabetes.

“Everyone knows that sleep is important. But when we think about sleep, we mainly focus on how many hours of sleep we get, when we should also be looking at our sleep experience as a whole,” Dr Matricciani says.

“How soundly we sleep, when we go to bed and get up, and how regular our sleep habits are, may be just as important as sleep duration.

“In this study, we examined the association of different aspects of sleep, and risk factors for diabetes, and found a connection between those who had troubled sleep and those who were at risk of type 2 diabetes.”

The study assessed more than 1000 Australian adults* with a median age of 44.8 years. Researchers examined a range of sleep characteristics: self-reported trouble sleeping, duration, timing, efficiency, and day-to-day sleep length variability.

“People who reported having trouble sleeping were also more likely to have a higher body mass index, as well as blood markers of cholesterol and inflammation,” Dr Matricciani says.

“When it comes to the crunch, we know we must prioritise our sleep to help stay in good health. More research is needed, but as this study shows, it’s important to think about sleep as a whole, not just as one aspect.”

*Most participants (87 per cent) were mothers. About half of all participants (48 per cent) reported that they never had troubled sleep.