Deprivation Nation: How Lack of Sleep Can Lead to Diabetes
Get the Sleep You Need and Avoid Diabetes
The first step to lowering your risk is figuring out the ideal amount of shut-eye you need. "Contrary to popular belief, eight hours isn't always the gold standard," Dr. Herdegen says. Anywhere from seven and a half to nine hours may be your sweet spot, depending on factors like genetics and age. For example, kids and teens need more than thirtysomethings but less than seniors. Your fitness level also plays a role. "Doing a 30-minute workout three times a week will likely improve the quality of your sleep, leaving you more refreshed with the same amount," Dr. Herdegen says. The general rule: If you feel rested when you wake up -- regardless of hours asleep -- that's a good marker that you're getting enough sleep. However, "if you feel sluggish during the day, you're putting yourself at risk," says Sam Fleishman, MD, medical director of the Sleep Center at Cape Fear Valley Health System in Fayetteville, North Carolina.
Fortunately, the sleep-diabetes connection is reversible. Move your bedtime forward by 45, 30, or just 15 minutes each night. After about four or five days, you'll find yourself waking up a few minutes before the alarm goes off -- that's your magic number. Still groggy? "Squeeze in extra sleep by napping," Dr. Herdegen says. "Be sure your nap is no more than 30 or 40 minutes long and you take it at least six hours before bedtime. Otherwise, it'll be harder to fall asleep that night."
And keep in mind that while your body can recover from short periods of sleep deprivation, it's harder to bounce back if the problem is chronic. "The more sleep you cut out over the long term, the harder it becomes to properly catch up on every hour you've lost," Dr. Herdegen says. "Your body interprets that sleep deficit as a constant stressor, and the chance you'll get diabetes grows." The best avoidance strategy: Sleep well, eat healthfully, and keep on exercising.
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