This Is How Many Hours Of Lost Sleep It Takes To Negatively Affect Blood Sugar, According To Science

Photo by @duangbj

According to a new study published in the American Journal of Physiology—Endocrinology and Metabolism, losing just six hours of sleep may have an adverse effect on metabolism, including an increased risk for diabetes.

We've known for a while that lack of shut-eye has the power to stimulate certain hormones that modulate hunger, causing us to eat more when we are sleep-deprived. But we weren't sure whether this excess eating or the sleep deprivation itself was the main culprit.

To find out, researchers examined two groups of mice. Both groups had free and easy access to sugar water and fatty foods for the duration of the study, but one was able to sleep as much as they wanted while the other group was kept awake for six hours each night. After just one six-hour wake cycle, the sleep-deprived group had higher blood sugar and higher liver triglycerides, which is an early warning sign of diabetes. The enzyme that modulates metabolism also didn't work the same way after sleep deprivation, suggesting that, if nothing else, sleep can change us on a cellular level.

Naturopathic physician and registered dietitian Jaime Schehr, N.D., confirms that she witnesses the power of sleep—and the lack thereof—in her practice time and time again. "I find that improving sleep habits is a critical step for patients who have hit a weight loss plateau," she told mbg. "This also goes for people who report weight gain without any major changes in their diets. There are other factors at play, to be sure, but when we are able to improve sleep, it almost always improves weight loss."

Dr. Ellen Vora, mbg collective member and class instructor, has a few tips on how to improve the quality of your sleep if losing it is out of your control. (Of course, talk to your doctor before making any lifestyle changes, especially if you have any outstanding health issues.)

  • Get the phone out of your bedroom.
  • Go to bed earlier—think 10:00 p.m.
  • Try supplementing with magnesium glycinate.
  • Take an epsom salt bath.
  • Stabilize your blood sugar by avoiding sugar, refined carbohydrates and alcohol and getting plenty of healthy fats and protein.

If this sounds extreme, remember that it's a study done on mice and still warrants more research to understand the complex implications it may have on human beings. That said, let it be a reminder not to skimp if you can help it!

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