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Sleep less than 6 hours a night? Hello, diabetes...

First study of its kind finds that those who sleep less than six hours a night are three times as likely to develop the pre-diabetic condition IFG.

Elizabeth Armstrong Moore
Elizabeth Armstrong Moore is based in Portland, Oregon, and has written for Wired, The Christian Science Monitor, and public radio. Her semi-obscure hobbies include climbing, billiards, board games that take up a lot of space, and piano.
Elizabeth Armstrong Moore
2 min read
People don't get enough sleep for all kinds of reasons, including a spot in line for the latest iPhone. Ed Yourdon/Flickr

I have long felt guilty about the extent to which I indulge in sleep. As a former and chronic insomniac (from kindergarten through college), I appreciate it so much I can hardly go without eight or even nine hours a night. And, as someone who knows lots of new parents, I consider this a guilty pleasure of the most luxurious variety.

But the fact that I slept three to five hours a night for so many years could mean I have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease, according to an analysis of six years of data on 1,455 patients from the Western New York Health Study.

The researchers who conducted the analysis--from the University of Warwick in the UK and the University of Buffalo in New York--say those who sleep less than six hours a night are three times more likely to develop incident-impaired fasting glycaemia (IFG) than those who sleep more than six hours a night.

IFG is a condition that renders the body less able to regulate glucose efficiently, and results in a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

An association has previously been established between short sleep intervals and higher levels of both cortisol (a hormone released in response to stress) and ghrelin (a hormone that stimulates appetite), according to lead author Saverio Stranges of the Warwick Medical School.

In the case of this pre-diabetic glycaemic state, he says, "More research is needed, but our study does suggest a very strong correlation between lack of sleep and type 2 diabetes and heart disease."

The team reported its findings this summer in the Annals of Epidemiology.