Poor Sleep Promotes Diabetes and Prediabetes

circadian rhythm diabetes diet supplement and exercise for metabolic syndrome x healthDisrupted sleep times and short sleep duration leads to poor blood sugar levels and a compromised metabolism.

Our contemporary “always on” society has ramifications on your health. Most of the readers of Nutrientology know that we often look at issues of health and wellness from an evolutionary perspective. This just means that we think of these biological issues in terms of the big picture of human evolution and design. In other words, we think about health in the context of how well our current environment correlates with our evolutionary design that has developed over the past 1-2 million years.

Big environmental changes have occurred since the start of the industrial era that began about 100 years ago. This is no time at all for our bodies to adapt. What is 100 years in the context of 2 million years? One aspect of contemporary industrialization and technology that may be taking a toll on our health is the prevalence of working in a brightly lit area at any hour of the day. Not to mention the lit up screens we are viewing at all hours of the day.

Our bodies have been designed to function in conjunction with sun up and sun down. Nutrientology readers know about our so-called “circadian rhythm” that tracks the 24 hour time period of the sun, and that there is a special area of the brain that is synchronized like a clock timer with the rising and setting of the sun.  I have previously posted about the substantially increased risk of heart attack in those with poor sleep.

Shift work is an especially taxing area of our contemporary “open 24 hours” culture. Multiple studies that have mimicked shift work have repeatedly shown its negative effects on metabolism.  In a recent study, researchers took 21 healthy volunteers and shortened their sleep time and varied their bedtimes to mimic shift work. This was carried out for 39 days in a fairly well controlled lab setting. Each study participant actually lived at the lab in their own suite.

Not surprisingly, this sleep disruption led to impaired glucose regulation and metabolism and is consistent with epidemiological studies showing a link between disrupted sleep and an increased risk of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.

The results showed the combination of insufficient sleep and altered circadian rhythm decreased the participants’ resting metabolic rate and increased blood sugar glucose concentrations after a meal due to a significant decrease in insulin secretion from the pancreas. Smart Nutrientology readers know the pancreas is responsible for producing and secreting insulin.

The reduced insulin secretion led to significant increases in both fasting and peak blood sugar glucose levels after eating compared with the volunteers’ responses to the same meal before they had their sleep “all messed up” by limiting their sleep time and keeping them awake at other times.

Most of the changes to the volunteers’ metabolism reverted to baseline or near-baseline levels after the recovery phase that closed out the study.

This was not a very lengthy study, and I suspect that some of the dramatic changes in the volunteers’ metabolism were the result of the acute disruptive change, however even if the body can adapt to new sleep-wake cycles (such as that which occurs during daylight savings time for example) it is important to coordinate your sleep/wake cycle with the light/dark cycle. In other words, we are meant to sleep when it is dark (no sun) and be awake when it is light (sun). If you must work in the middle of the night and sleep during the day, make your bedroom as dark as you can, and keep your working environment well lit.

Over time, the metabolic changes that occur as a result of sleep disruption, could increase the risk of diabetes and prediabetes metabolic syndrome x. If you already have these medical problems, you need to get your lifestyle on track and treat sleep as part of your “medicine.”  Try to make your bedroom pitch black when you are sleeping.

sun circadian rhythm for type 2 pre diabetes diet and exercise for metabolic syndrome x managementBecause our metabolism is so tied to the sun, it wouldn’t surprise me if we metabolize food quite differently when eaten when the sun is up versus when it is dark.  {Note to self: topic for future investigation}.  Based on this, it makes sense that a healthy way of eating would involve only eating during daylight hours.  The “sun diet?”   😎  What do you think?

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About Robert Creighton

Dr. Creighton is a podiatrist and foot surgeon with over 26 years in podiatric practice treating thousands of patients afflicted with the physiological, physical, and psychological side effects and complications of diabetes and pre-diabetes metabolic syndrome. He believes these disorders present a pressing public health concern that need to be more actively addressed in a multidisciplinary way. Dr. Creighton graduated from what is now the Temple University School of Podiatric Medicine after receiving his undergraduate degree in Biology. He is certified by the American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgery, a member of the American Public Health Association, an American College of Sports Medicine certified personal trainer and a Member of the American Nutrition Association.

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