A new research reveals that lack of sleep can raise the levels of free fatty acids in the blood, together with temporary pre-diabetic conditions, a finding that now reiterates a 15 year old study that had earlier made similar suggestions. The study which was aimed at examining the impact of sleep loss on 24-hour fatty acid levels in the blood pointed out that not getting enough sleep tends to disrupt the metabolism of fat while also reducing the ability of insulin to regulate blood sugars.

Researchers observed that sleeping for only four hours for three nights at a stretch the level of fatty acids in the blood (which usually peak and then dip back to normal during the night) was seen to remain high from 4 a.m. to 9 a.m. The ability of insulin to regulate blood sugars gets reduced when the fatty acid levels are high.


“At the population level, multiple studies have reported connections between restricted sleep, weight gain, and type 2 diabetes,” said Esra Tasali, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Chicago. “Experimental laboratory studies, like ours, help us unravel the mechanisms that may be responsible.”

The researchers in this case studied 19 healthy male subjects between the ages of 18 and 30. They studied two scenarios. In the first case, the respondents got a full night’s rest or about 8.5 hours of sleep for four nights while in the second case, they slept only for 4.5 hours for four consecutive nights. Both the studies were held a month apart.

All this while, they monitored the blood levels of free fatty acids and growth hormone, glucose and insulin, and the stress hormones noradrenaline and cortisol by collecting blood samples constantly. An intravenous glucose-tolerance test was also performed after 4 nights.

‘Curtailed sleep produced marked changes in the secretion of growth hormone and levels of noradrenaline – which can increase circulating fatty acids,’ noted study’s lead author Josiane Broussard. The result was a significant loss of the benefits of insulin. ‘This crucial hormone was less able to do its job. Insulin action in these healthy young men resembled what we typically see in early stages of diabetes,’ he pointed out.

The new results help confirm the 15 year old findings by researchers from University of Chicago, which had hinted about a correlation between sleep loss, insulin resistance and heightened risk of type 2 diabetes.

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