WEDNESDAY, April 11 (HealthDay News) -- Sleep deprivation, in combination with disrupted "body clock" rhythms, could result in some of the changes to a person's metabolism that can foreshadow both obesity and diabetes, researchers report.
Participants in the small study who were only allowed to sleep about six hours a night and who were subjected to shifting sleep-wake cycles had higher blood sugar levels and lower resting "metabolic rates," which is a term that describes how quickly your body burns calories for energy.
Elevated blood sugar levels can lead to diabetes. If diet and exercise aren't changed, low resting metabolic rates can lead to obesity, which in turn elevates the risk for diabetes.
Previous research has shown that people who work the night shift or who continually get too little sleep have high fat levels in the blood and are more likely to be obese and have type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome (a cluster of conditions that are associated with increased risk of heart disease), said Dr. Orfeu Buxton, lead author of the new study and an associate neuroscientist at Brigham & Women's Hospital in Boston.
Buxton's research group had previously shown, in a laboratory setting, that people who sleep only five hours a night for a week have a greater risk of diabetes.
This latest study, published April 11 in Science Translational Medicine, involved 21 healthy adults who were sequestered in a laboratory for almost six weeks, their sleep cycles, diet and activities all controlled by researchers.
After an initial period of sleeping normally (about 10 hours a night), the participants had three weeks of restricted sleep (less than six hours per 24-hour period) along with a disruption of their body clock -- or "circadian rhythm" -- brought about by cycles of 28-hour days.
The schedule was similar to that of rotating shift workers.
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