If you're a middle-aged woman who has trouble sleeping, here's
something else that could keep you up at night: A recent study says women
in that age group who suffer from sleep problems are at higher risk for
type 2 diabetes.
The report from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health looked at
women who participated in two Nurses Health Studies and focused on those
who said they had frequent difficulty falling or staying asleep. The data
found that those women ended up with a greater chance of getting type
2 diabetes than women who slept normally. Women who not only had those
sleep problems but also reported chronic snoring, less than six hours
of sleep a night and sleep disrupted by apnea or shift work were four
times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
"There are some other factors at play that are linked to sleep deprivation," says
Henry Kaw, Jr., MD, a board-certified family medicine physician at
St. Jude Medical Center. "For instance, obesity and hypertension can be by-products of chronically
poor sleep, and those are both risk factors for type 2 diabetes. The study
authors also point out that poor sleep is a symptom of depression, which
can contribute to type 2 diabetes. Sleep, or the lack of it, is intertwined
in all of that."
Getting the right amount of sleep is necessary not just to curb the risk
of type 2 diabetes but also to maintain overall health and wellness. "If
you have trouble sleeping, it's important to fix the underlying cause,"
Dr. Kaw says. "Symptoms of sleep disorders include heavy snoring,
interrupted sleep, waking up feeling tired, or difficulty staying awake
during the day. You may also experience mood changes or have trouble focusing
because your mind feels cloudy."
"If you are experiencing these symptoms, you should consult with a
physician to get testing and a diagnosis," Dr. Kaw continues. "Certain
disorders will call for specific types of treatment. For instance, if
you have sleep apnea, where you have difficulty breathing while you sleep,
you may need a breathing apparatus to keep your airways open at night.
If you work a shift that disrupts normal sleep patterns, such as a night
shift, you might be prescribed medication or melatonin supplements. People
who have trouble falling asleep can be given bedtime rituals and strategies,
such as stress reduction techniques and guided meditation."
Generally, adults should aim for at least seven hours of sleep at night.
"Research says sleep affects so many areas of your health, from keeping
your immune system running properly to decreasing your risk of cardiovascular
disease," Dr. Kaw says. "This latest study about women and type
2 diabetes just reaffirms the importance of a good night's sleep for
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical
care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.