Sleep Disorder in Women Raises Diabetes Risk

February 3, 2016
Melissa Glim

Women who have trouble sleeping have a much greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to a new study found.

Women who have trouble sleeping have a much greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to a new study published online in the January 28 issue of Diabetologia.

Researchers at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health analyzing health data of 133,353 women with neither type 2 diabetes nor heart disease. The women were all participants in the 10-year Nurses’ Health Study and the Nurses’ Health Study II.

After 10 years, 6,407 women developed type 2 diabetes. After adjusting for lifestyle factors, they showed that women who reported having problems sleeping all or most of the time had a significantly greater risk for diabetes than those without sleep disturbances. Moreover that risk went up even higher with each additional disorder they had. Types of sleep problems included difficulty falling asleep, frequent snoring, sleep apnea, regularly getting less than 6 hours of sleep, or working rotating shifts that disrupt sleep patterns.

After adjusting for lifestyle factors, lead investigator Yanping Li, MD, PhD, and colleagues found the women who reported having any one of four sleeping conditions had a 47% increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The increase went up twofold, threefold, and fourfold with each additional problem. When women with obesity, hypertension, or depression at the start of the study were exclude, the increased risk was still 44%.

The association with type 2 diabetes “was partially explained by associations with hypertension, BMI, and depression symptoms, and was particularly strong when combined with other sleep disorders,” the authors concluded. “Our findings highlight the importance of good sleeping patterns and having enough sleep for preventing type 2 diabetes.”

Although the link between sleep disorders and type 2 diabetes has been shown in other study, it was unclear whether the association occurs independently of health behaviors, heart disease, or additional sleep problems.

“The findings provide evidence to clinical physicians and public health researchers for future diabetes prevention among a high risk population with multiple sleep disorders," they suggest.