A Bad Night’s Sleep Is As Dangerous As a Poor Diet
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So you stayed up too late binge-watching “Scandal,” or burning the midnight oil on an important work project—what’s one night of lost sleep, anyway. Actually, scrimping on as little as one measly night’s sleep can have a profound effect on our metabolism, researchers have found.
A new study, presented at the Obesity Society Annual Meeting last week, found that one night of sleep deprivation and six months consuming a high-fat diet both impaired the body’s insulin sensitivity to nearly the same degree. Insulin resistance is important, because if the body starts to become resistant, has to pump out more and more insulin in order to keep blood sugar levels stable. That can lead to Type 2 diabetes. Obesity itself is also associated with insulin resistance, and later, diabetes.
The study was conducted in canines. First, the dogs’ levels of insulin sensitivity were measured after one night of sleep deprivation. (How you deprive a dog of sleep, I don’t know. Perhaps a lot of cats were involved?) Next, the dogs were fed a high-fat diet for six months, and their insulin sensitivity was again tested. Surprisingly, one night of sleep deprivation reduced insulin sensitivity by 33 percent, more than the six months’ of a high fat diet, at 21 percent.
“Research has shown that sleep deficiency and a high-fat diet both lead to impaired insulin sensitivity, but it was previously unknown is which leads to more severe insulin resistance,” wrote study author Josiane Broussard, Ph.D. She is a project scientist at the Diabetes and Obesity Research Institute at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles. “Our study suggests that one night of total sleep deprivation may be as detrimental to insulin sensitivity as six months on a high-fat diet. This research demonstrates the importance of adequate sleep in maintaining blood sugar levels and reducing risk for metabolic diseases like obesity and diabetes.”
The takeaway for health practitioners, the study goes on to say, is that they need to emphasize with patients the importance of getting a good night’s sleep each night, whenever humanly possible. Obviously, there’s going to be times of jetlag or a newborn baby when a solid night’s sleep is... well, but a dream.
In addition to the insulin issue, a lack of sleep can also lead to a person making poor food choices the next day, and leave us with little energy to go exercise. It’s a vicious cycle, making sleep all the more essential. So our pillows are powerful tools in our wellness arsenal.
Kathryn Drury Wagner is a writer and editor based in Los Angeles. Her latest book is Hawaii’s Strangest, Ickiest, Wildest Book Ever!