17 April 2012
Disrupted sleep and circadian rhythms can impair the ability of beta cells in the pancreas to secrete insulin, leading to a build-up of glucose in the blood, scientists say.
That could lead to raised risk of type 2 diabetes for world travellers, late-night shift workers and others with out-of-sync body clocks, they said after a controlled lab-based study.
The 21 participants in the study by neuroscientists in Boston, USA, spent almost 6 weeks in the lab. For 3 weeks they got 5.6 hours of sleep per 24-hour period while simultaneously experiencing 28-hour circadian days – similar to 4 hours of jet lag accumulating each day.
That combination of restricted sleep and disrupted circadian rhythm caused a 32 per cent drop in insulin secretion after a meal.
Garvan Institute endocrinologist Professor Don Chisholm said the findings differed from previous research linking sleep and circadian disruption to insulin resistance.
“This study found no significant changes in insulin sensitivity, but there was a quite significant reduction in insulin secretion,” Professor Chisholm said.
“That may be because it was a more intense and prolonged study.”
But regardless of the mechanism, diabetes was associated with disrupted sleep and circadian rhythm, he said.
“If people are undertaking work or travel where they have a fair amount of sleep or circadian rhythm disruption it’s even more important that they eat sensibly and exercise regularly.”
Last Reviewed: 17 April 2012