Insufficient sleep is associated with type 2 diabetes, yet the causal impact of chronic insufficient sleep on glucose metabolism in women is unknown. We investigated whether prolonged mild sleep restriction (SR), resembling real-world short sleep, impairs glucose metabolism in women.
Women (aged 20–75 years) without cardiometabolic diseases and with actigraphy-confirmed habitual total sleep time (TST) of 7–9 h/night were recruited to participate in this randomized, crossover study with two 6-week phases: maintenance of adequate sleep (AS) and 1.5 h/night SR. Outcomes included plasma glucose and insulin levels, HOMA of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR) values based on fasting blood samples, as well as total area under the curve for glucose and insulin, the Matsuda index, and the disposition index from an oral glucose tolerance test.
Our sample included 38 women (n = 11 postmenopausal women). Values are reported with ±SEM. Linear models adjusted for baseline outcome values demonstrated that TST was reduced by 1.34 ± 0.04 h/night with SR versus AS (P < 0.0001). Fasting insulin (β = 6.8 ± 2.8 pmol/L; P = 0.016) and HOMA-IR (β = 0.30 ± 0.12; P = 0.016) values were increased with SR versus AS, with effects on HOMA-IR more pronounced in postmenopausal women compared with premenopausal women (β = 0.45 ± 0.25 vs. β = 0.27 ± 0.13, respectively; P for interaction = 0.042). Change in adiposity did not mediate the effects of SR on glucose metabolism or change results in the full sample when included as a covariate.
Curtailing sleep duration to 6.2 h/night, reflecting the median sleep duration of U.S. adults with short sleep, for 6 weeks impairs insulin sensitivity, independent of adiposity. Findings highlight insufficient sleep as a modifiable risk factor for insulin resistance in women to be targeted in diabetes prevention efforts.
This article contains supplementary material online at https://doi.org/10.2337/figshare.24319006.