Sleep is on everyone’s minds nowadays likely because it’s been tough to find a night that involves a good night’s sleep. The coronavirus pandemic has made it hard to come by for Americans due to increased levels of anxiety and stress.
Over half of Americans fear they won’t be able to return to pre-pandemic sleep due to the damage COVID-19 has caused on their current routine.
Sleep loss can have devastating consequences in many facets of life. Heart disease, heart attack, and heart failure are some of the risks that sleep disorders and chronic sleep loss can create. Lack of sex drive, depression, forgetfulness, and more also pop up, according to research, as does an array of side effects such as weight gain, type-2 diabetes, and sucking the joy out of your life, according to new research.
Three new studies released recently highlight the trouble of poor sleep beyond feeling groggy in the morning. Researchers in Sweden found that insomnia — which more than 50 million Americans suffer from — can increase the risk for type-2 diabetes by 17%. The study, which appears in the journal Diabetologia, identifies 34 factors that have a chance of either increase or decrease the risk of developing type-2 diabetes.
Researchers panned through more than 1,300 articles on risk factors of type-two diabetes using a technique called “Mendelian Randomization,” which helps clean up data that can be found as confusing or conflicting on the causes of the disease. Of the 34 factors, 19 were identified at risk factors including insomnia.
The other risk factors were:
- Systolic blood pressure
- Started smoking
- Lifetime smoking
- Blood plasma levels of the amino acids isoleucine, valine, and leucine
- Liver enzyme alanine aminotransferase (liver function)
- Childhood and adulthood body mass index
- Body fat percentage
- Visceral fat mass
- Resting heart rate
- Blood plasma levels of four fatty acids (Eicosapentaenoic, Docosapentaenoic, Arachidonic acid, Stearic)
Insomnia’s link to type-2 diabetes relies on lifestyle choices. Researchers said skipping meals or eating poorly can increase the risk of type-2 diabetes, which poor sleep quality has been linked with.
“Findings should inform public health policies for the primary prevention of type 2 diabetes. Prevention strategies should be constructed from multiple perspectives, such as lowering obesity and smoking rates and levels, and improving mental health, sleep quality, educational level and birthweight,” researchers said in a press release.
Does poor sleep lead to weight gain?
CNN reported previous studies on sleep and weight gain largely relied on the recollection of participants to record their sleep patterns. But when including technology, researchers were able to make a breakthrough in understanding the connection of sleep durations and patterns and weight gain.
A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine used sleep apps on fitness trackers, smartphones, and watches to track sleep data for 120,000 people in a two-year period. Their findings revealed different sleep patterns for all, but people with BMI of 30 or above had slightly shorter mean sleep durations. A BMI of 30 or above is considered obese by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Major findings of our study include that (1) individual sleep durations and patterns are highly variable, and (2) shorter sleep duration and greater sleep variability were both associated with higher BMI,” the study reads.
“While we cannot determine the direction of association from our study result, these findings provide further support to the notion that sleep patterns are associated with weight management and overall health. The findings also support the potential value of including both sleep duration and individual sleep patterns when studying sleep-related health outcomes.”
Researchers did note limitations. People who likely use wearable technology are from “higher socioeconomic statues, younger, and healthier” and naps were excluded from the study.
Can lack of sleep really make you miserable?
The more sleep you get, the better you react emotionally to stressful events the next day, researchers from The University of British Columbia concluded. However, if you’re constantly sleep-deprived, it could carry consequences.
In this study published in Health Psychology, researchers used data from nearly 2,000 American adults and examined sleep duration and how people responded to negative and positive situations in the following day. Participants recorded their experiences and sleep totals while conducting daily interviews for a little over a week.
While it’s recommended that people get at least seven hours of sleep daily, these guidelines often aren’t met. Lead researcher Nancy Sin wanted to find evidence that backed how a poor night’s sleep could affect the way we respond to the next day’s problems.
“When people experience something positive, such as getting a hug or spending time in nature, they typically feel happier that day,” Sin, an assistant professor in The University of British Columbia’s psychology department, said in a press release. “But we found that when a person sleeps less than their usual amount, they don’t have as much of a boost in positive emotions from their positive events.”
Sin pointed out something interesting about sleep quality: when people generally experience something positive, it can have a big boost to their day, but when someone doesn’t get enough sleep, that event doesn’t give them the same boost as normal.
That means more sleep makes positive moments feel even better. For those with chronic health conditions, the study found that sleep helps change perception as well.
“For those with chronic health conditions, we found that longer sleep – compared to one’s usual sleep duration – led to better responses to positive experiences on the following day,” Sin said.