Here’s something to lose sleep over if you have diabetes. A recent study published in Diabetologia identifies insomnia as a new risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes. People who chronically struggle to get a good night’s sleep, according to the new research, are 17% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those who sleep soundly.
To identify possible risk factors for type 2 diabetes, researchers from Stockholm, Sweden’s Karolinska Institutet conducted a review of 1,360 previous research studies and articles. The study used a technique called Mendelian Randomisation. Why is this important? Because the technique uses genetic variation and forms a stronger causal association than observational studies.
The researchers identified insomnia and 18 other risk factors thought to increase the risk for type 2 diabetes. (An additional 15 factors are thought to decrease risk.) The other 18 risk factors that raise the risk are: depression, systolic blood pressure, starting smoking, lifetime smoking, coffee (caffeine) consumption, blood plasma levels of the amino acids isoleucine, valine and leucine, liver enzyme alanine aminotransferase (a sign of liver function), childhood and adulthood body mass index (BMI), body fat percentage, visceral (internal) fat mass, resting heart rate, and blood plasma levels of four fatty acids.
Eight risk factors were found to be independent of body weight and body mass index, with insomnia being one of them. However, for those without insomnia, the increased risk factor of developing type 2 diabetes was reduced by 10 percentage points to 7%. This indicates that for those that successfully manage body weight, even if one experiences frequent bouts of insomnia, is at a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than someone with both insomnia and a high BMI.
In addition to the 19 risk factors identified by the study, there are an additional number of suggestive causal factors for type 2 diabetes. This means that the evidence was weaker than for the 19 risk factors, including insomnia. The suggestive factors include alcohol consumption, breakfast skipping, daytime napping, short sleep, urinary sodium (salt) levels, and certain amino acids and inflammatory factors.
The researchers hope their findings will educate public health officials in developing policies for the primary prevention of type 2 diabetes. “Prevention strategies should be constructed from multiple perspectives, such as lowering obesity and smoking rates and levels, and improving mental health, sleep quality, educational level and birth weight,” the researchers conclude.