For most people, not getting enough sleep isn’t a big deal. So what if you aren’t as sharp as usual the next day, or feel a bit groggy? But sleeping poorly night after night—because you are trying to burn the candle at both ends or you work night or rotating shifts—has long-term health consequences. People who don’t average at least six hours of sleep a night are more likely to be overweight or develop various medical problems, including diabetes.
Being overweight is a big risk factor for becoming diabetic. Researchers long thought that the poor eating habits that went along with poor sleep were at the root of sleep-related diabetes. With the help of 21 volunteers who lived in a sleep lab for almost six weeks, researchers from Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital have shown that lack of sleep plays an even more complex and powerful role.