Can Lack of Sleep Make You Diabetic?

A sleep study done at the University of Chicago’s medical center in 1999, and published in The Lancet, showed that sleep deprivation reduces the capacity of even young healthy adults to properly maintain blood sugar levels or hormonal balance. 

The study involved manipulating the sleep of 11 healthy young men over 16 consecutive nights.  The first 3 nights they slept 8 hours, the next 6 nights they slept 4 hours and the last 7 nights they slept for 12 hours. 

All 11 participants ate the same diet.  The metabolic changes that were observed resembled the effects of advanced age or early signs of diabetes.  These findings were after less than one week!

This is due to the fact that the hormone cortisol stays elevated when we are awake, especially under artificial light (light bulbs), and computer or television screens. 

Because cortisol mobilizes blood sugar, it signals the release of insulin to carry that sugar out of the blood and into our cells.  That would be our fat cells when we are lying around late at night. 

The later you stay awake, the more cortisol is in your system. The more cortisol, the more insulin.  The more insulin, the  more insulin resistance, which leads to diabetes.  Evidently very quickly.

The only variable in this study was the amount of sleep the subjects received, which shows just how important sleep is to your overall health. 

The adverse effects returned to normal when the subjects slept for 12 hours.  Interestingly, 8 hours of sleep did not bring them to full recovery, which is why many sleep experts suggest 9 ½ hours of sleep a night to keep your body functioning at its peak.  More recent research however suggests between 7-8 hours to be adequate.  I can hear your sigh of relief. 

For guidance and support for better sleep and health, contact me for a free 15 minute consultation at, or call me at 301-332-5732.