The findings showed that men who slept the least and the most were more likely to have an impaired ability to process sugar compared to men who slept an average amount of about seven hours.
The men at either end of the spectrum had higher blood sugar levels than men who got the average amount of sleep. Conversely, women who slept less or more than average were more responsive to the hormone insulin than women who slept the average amount. They also had enhanced function of beta cells - the cells in the pancreas that produce the hormone insulin.
This suggests lost sleep may not put women at increased risk of developing diabetes, the study said. “In men, sleeping too much or too little was related to less responsiveness of the cells in the body to insulin, reducing glucose uptake and thus increasing the risk of developing diabetes in the future,” said Femke Rutters from VU University in the Netherlands.
During the last 50 years, the average self-reported sleep duration for individuals has decreased by 1.5 to two hours. The prevalence of diabetes has doubled in the same time period, the researchers noted.
“Even when you are healthy, sleeping too much or too little can have detrimental effects on your health,” Rutters said adding, “this research shows how important sleep is to a key aspect of health - glucose metabolism.”
The study, is the first to show opposite effects of lost sleep on diabetes risk in men and women. In the cross-sectional study, the team examined the sleep duration and diabetes risk factors in 788 healthy adults ranging in age from 30 to 60 years old.
The researchers observed sex-specific relationships between sleep duration and glucose metabolism in the participants.