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

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As the Christmas season starts to ramp up, experts 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, University of South Australia researchers found that people who reported 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.

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A troubled sleep may be associated with risk factors for type 2 diabetes. (iStock)

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.”

We mainly focus on how many hours of sleep we get, when we should also be looking at our sleep experience

“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.”

READ MORE: Aussies choosing not to share a bed for better sleep

Overtired woman working late at night. Woman on computer at night. Woman working late at night. Tired woman.
People who reported having trouble sleeping were also more likely to have a higher body mass index. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

The study assessed more than 1000 Australian adults (many of whom were mothers) with a median age of 44.8 years.

Researchers examined a range of sleep characteristics: self-report 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 down 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.”

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