In a study presented at the Endocrine Society's annual meeting in San Diego, researchers have found that losing sleep by as little as 30 minutes per day during weekdays can result in long-term metabolic and body weight consequences.

People commonly lose out on sleep due to work and social commitments, accumulating sleep debt on weekdays and trying to make up for what they have lost over the weekend. Unfortunately, catching on sleep can't do anything to reverse the effects of sleep debt, which have been found to lead to metabolic disruption promoting the onset of or worsening of type 2 diabetes mellitus.

Sleep loss is common but researchers note that it was only within the last 10 years that people realized losing out on sleep has metabolic consequences.

"Our findings suggest that avoiding sleep debt could have positive benefits for waistlines and metabolism and that incorporating sleep into lifestyle interventions for weight loss and diabetes might improve their success," said Shahrad Taheri, M.B.B.S., Ph.D., a professor from the Weill Cornell Medical College and the lead author for the study.

For the study, the researchers worked with 522 patients from the Early Activity in Diabetes trial who have just been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Subjects were randomly grouped into three and completed sleep diaries for seven days while calculating how much sleep debt they were accruing during weekdays. Researchers also recorded heights and weights for determining obesity status at baseline, measuring as well waist circumference and analyzing fasting blood samples to check for insulin sensitivity.

At baseline, those who had sleep debt had 72 percent more predisposed to being obese compared to those who logged all the hours of sleep they need at night. After six months, those sleep-deprived have been associated significantly with insulin resistance and obesity. By 12 months, risks of insulin resistance have spiked by 39 percent while risks of obesity have risen by 17 percent for each 30-minute period of sleep the subjects are losing during the week.

Based on the results of the study, researchers advise that future intervention be designed to slow down, if not reverse, the progression of metabolic disease, meaning all factors affecting metabolic function, including sleep, must be considered. Researchers also recommended consistency in sleep hygiene as a potential factor in successfully carrying out metabolic disease trials in the future.

The study received funding support from the UK National Institute for Health Research and Diabetes UK.

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