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Lack of sleep could lead to major health problem - study

Margaret Jack  By Margaret Jack   |   Posted in Sleep Research   |   Last updated: Thursday 18th October 2012

A study in the Annals of Internal Medicine has found that not enough sleep has a dangerous response to fat cells, reducing their ability to react to insulin be around 30%. Over a long period of time this change in response could lead to type-2 diabetes, liver decease and weight gain.

The study at the University of Chicago involved the participation of seven young, fit and healthy volunteers. The participants had to sleep in a sleep lab at the University for two stints of 4 nights. The first 4 nights they were allowed to sleep for 8.5 hours a night. After a month they were asked to come back for another 4 nights, but this time they were only allowed 4.5 hours of sleep per night. After each of their visits the researchers studied the participant's fat.

It was found that the fat cell responded radically to the lack of sleep in the second visit to the sleep lab. This is bad because negative things can happen when fat cells become less responsive to insulin. The fat cells are there to store lipids, so through the day when you're at work, exercising or sleeping your body can use the fat. Problems start when fat cells become insulin resistant because then the fat starts to go to other parts of the body and accumulates in other tissues. This can lead to fatty liver disease or can obstruct with the body's ability to clear glucose from the blood into muscle, causing metabolic issues.

The fat cells of the healthy volunteers would more than likely have rebounded after the study. However if it become a regular occurrence that people aren't getting enough sleep then their bodies could decide to store more food as fat which will heavily impact on people's weight.

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