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Too little Sleep and the link to Diabetes

Posted by Gerhard Fourie on

Written on the 1 August 2013 by The Compounding Team

The Dangers of too little Sleep –Lack of Melatonin linked to Diabetes

A lack of sleep clearly wreaks havoc with many facets of human health. Scientists have long known, for instance, that lack of sleep is associated with weight gain. One study found that after a night of abbreviated sleep, subjects consumed more than 500 extra calories.

Another study also found that subjects ate significantly more snacks and carbohydrates after a night of only five and a half hours of sleep.

According to the New York Times:
“Some studies pin the blame on hormones, arguing that decreased sleep creates a spike in ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates appetite, and a reduction in leptin, which signals satiety.”

As ABC News reported, staying awake for just one night is enough to make you act as though you’re legally intoxicated if you get behind the wheel.

Sleep is no less vital than food, water and air, as if you deprive yourself of any one of these long enough, it will swiftly kill you.

Before the invention of the light bulb, people slept an average of 10 hours a night. Nowadays, a separate NSF (National Sleep Foundation), poll found that Americans sleep just under 7 hours per night, on average, during the week, and about 7.5 hours on the weekends.

Health Risks of Not Enough Sleep

Too little sleep impacts your levels of thyroid and stress hormones, which in turn can affect your memory and immune system, your heart and metabolism, and much more. Over time, lack of sleep can lead to:

• Accelerated aging
• Depression
• High blood sugar levels and an increased risk of diabetes
• Brain damage

Recent research has also found that sleep duration was linked to gains in abdominal fat even after researchers accounted for other factors that could influence weight, such as calories consumed and exercise habits. This is the type of fat linked to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, strokes and other chronic diseases; so it’s a matter that goes way beyond aesthetics.

What this means is that if you’re not taking your sleep needs seriously, you could be unknowingly sabotaging your weight -- and your health.

One way this occurs is by altering levels of important hormones linked with appetite and eating behaviour. When you are sleep deprived, your body decreases production of leptin, the hormone that tells your brain there is no need for more food. At the same time it increases levels of ghrelin, a hormone that triggers hunger.

In one study, researchers found people who received only four hours of sleep a night, for two nights, experienced:
• 18 percent reduction in leptin
• 28 percent increase in ghrelin

Also, the sleep-deprived subjects in the study seemed to eat more sweet and starchy foods, rather than vegetables and dairy products. Researchers suspected these cravings stemmed from the fact that your brain is fuelled by glucose (blood sugar); therefore, when lack of sleep occurs, your brain searches for carbohydrates.

In short, sleep deprivation puts your body into a pre-diabetic state, and makes you feel hungry, even if you’ve already eaten.

Melatonin linked to diabetes
Researchers in Lille and Paris demonstrated that mutations in the melatonin receptor gene (melatonin or the "hormone of darkness"), lead to an almost sevenfold increase in the risk of developing diabetes.

This research, which was published in Nature Genetics, could contribute to the development of new drugs for the treatment or prevention of this metabolic disease.

Type 2 diabetes is characterised by excess blood glucose and increased resistance to insulin. It is the most common form of the disease and affects 300 million people in the world, including 3 million in France. This figure should double in the next few years, driven by the obesity epidemic and the disappearance of ancestral lifestyles.

It is known that genetic factors, combined with a high-fat, high-sugar diet and lack of exercise, can also contribute to the onset of the disease. Furthermore, several studies have shown that sleeping disorders that affect the duration and quality of sleep are also high risk factors. Shift workers, for example, are at greater risk of developing the disease. No previous research has described any mechanism linking the biological clock to diabetes.

The researchers focused their attention on the receptor of a hormone called melatonin, which is produced by the pineal gland as light fades. Melatonin, can be seen as a biological "time-keeper", synchronising biological rhythms with nightfall. The teams sequenced the MT2 gene, which encodes its receptor, in 7600 diabetics and persons with normal glycaemia.

Protein structure modification
They found 40 rare mutations that modify the protein structure of the melatonin receptor, 14 of which made the receptor in question non-functional. The team went on to demonstrate that the risk of developing diabetes is nearly seven times higher in people affected by such mutations, which make them melatonin-insensitive.

It is known that the production of insulin, the hormone responsible for controlling blood glucose levels, drops at night to prevent any risk of hypoglycaemia. Insulin production starts up again, however, to avoid excess blood glucose during the day, which is when most people eat.

Research in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that 370 women with diabetes were compared with 370 women of the same race and age without the disease.

Researchers found participants with diabetes produced low levels of melatonin at night compared to the control group without diabetes.

Melatonin is produced by the brain during sleep, when its levels are higher in blood, to help regulate the circadian rhythm or "body clock".

"This is the first time that an independent association has been established between nocturnal melatonin secretion and type two diabetes risk," said Ciaran McMullan, a researcher in the Renal Division and Kidney Clinical Research Institute at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston.

The research found that participants who produced a low level of melatonin at night were twice as likely to develop diabetes compared to those who produced a high level of the hormone.

Melatonin secretion varied sharply between the participants, with some producing nearly five times as much as the lowest.

Your Body Depends on its Sleep-Wake Cycle

The consequences of sleep deprivation are so intense because your circadian rhythm has evolved over hundreds of generations to align your physiology with your environment, and your body clock assumes that, like your ancestors, you sleep at night and stay awake during daylight hours.

If you confuse the situation by depriving yourself of enough hours of sleep, you send conflicting signals to your body.

A single night of sleeping only four to six hours can impact your ability to think clearly the next day. Sleep deprivation can cause changes in your brain activity similar to those experienced by people with psychiatric disorders.

In addition, too little sleep can:
• Increase your risk of cancer by altering the balance of hormones in your body
• Increase your risk of heart disease and stroke
• Raise your blood pressure
• Speed up tumour growth. Tumours grow two to three times faster in laboratory animals with severe sleep dysfunctions
Your body also does most of its repairs during sleep, so not getting enough of it can impair your immune system, leaving you less able to fight off diseases of ALL kinds.

How to “Program Your Body” for a Restful Night’s Sleep
Many people have trouble falling asleep because their mind is racing with thoughts from their day (or planning for the next).

This is why it is recommend that at least an hour before your bedtime (but preferably two or more) you start to wind down from your day. You may want to spend time journaling, meditating, sipping herbal tea, washing your face, using Meridian Tapping/Emotional Freedom Techniques (MTT/EFT) or reading a calming or spiritual book.

During this time, turn off your phone and your e-mail, and put away all work. This will give your mind a chance to unwind so you can go to sleep feeling calm, not hyped up or anxious about tomorrow's deadlines.

Ideally, it is recommended getting to bed as early as possible. Your body, particularly your adrenals, do a majority of their recharging or recovering during the hours of 11 p.m. and 1 a.m., so you should definitely try to be asleep during those hours.

When you get into bed, make sure you room is completely dark - pitch black - in order to protect your melatonin levels.

Once in the bedroom, some people find the sound of white noise or nature sounds, such as the ocean or forest, to be soothing for sleep. You’ll also want to adjust the temperature in your bedroom to a cool setting, if possible.

Extracted from, and recommended further reading:
4) ABC News April 26, 2010
5) New York Times April 26, 2010
6) (EurekAlert, January 2012)

Always read the label on any medication and use only as directed. Vitamin and other supplements should not replace a balanced diet, or exercise, unless so instructed by your medical practitioner. If symptoms persist, seek further health advice. The information presented above is not intended to replace the advice of your medical practitioner.

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