Losing only six hours of sleep affects the liver and its ability to generate glucose and process insulin, boosting risks of metabolic diseases, including type 2 diabetes and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. These outcomes were part of a study conducted by Toho University Graduate School of Medicine in Japan, which was released before its upcoming publication in the American Journal of Physiology, Endocrinology, and Metabolism.
According to the researchers, sleep deprivation leads to overeating, a sedentary lifestyle, and a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, as well as other metabolic disorders such as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
“It was not clear whether glucose intolerance was due to the changes in food intake or energy expenditure or to the sleep deprivation itself,” said the researchers who conducted their study on two groups of lab mice.
Sleep deprivation or losing six hours of sleep per night leads to increased risks of diabetes
While the scientists kept the first group awake for six hours per night, they permitted mice in the second group to sleep as much as they wanted. To make the whole experiment more similar to the reality of bad eating habits, the researchers fed the mice in both groups with foods rich in fats and sugars, while during the awake hours the animals did not have many opportunities to make physical activity.
Immediately after the experiment ended, the scientists measured the fats and glucose levels in the tested animals and noticed very high blood sugar levels and considerably increased triglyceride (fat) levels in those mice which lost six hours of sleep per night. Higher triglyceride and glucose level in blood and liver signals for insulin resistance, while sleep deprivation was also the culprit for irregulated metabolism in the liver.
The research’s outcomes indicate that “intervention studies designed to prevent sleep deprivation-induced hepatic steatosis and insulin resistance should be performed in the future,” as the scientists wrote in the report.