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Another Study Implicates Short Sleep as a Risk Factor in Diabetes, Heart Disease

Mary K. Caffrey
The prospective cohort study adds to the findings that connect lack of sleep to metabolic syndrome and the development of disease.
A study by a team of South Korean researchers is the latest in growing body of research that says lack of sleep is part of the constellation of risk factors that contributes to metabolic syndrome and leads to diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

Reported this month in the journal Sleep, the study finds that people who get less than 6 hours of sleep are more likely to have high blood sugar, high cholesterol, extra body fat at the midsection, elevated blood pressure and excess fat in the blood.

“The short sleepers should be aware of the risks of developing metabolic syndrome, which could lead them to suffer from life threatening and chronic disease,” lead author Jang Young Kim, MD, PhD, of Yonsei University told Reuters Health.

In this prospective cohort study, the researchers followed 2579 adults between ages 40 and 70 who did not have metabolic disease at the start of the study. The study participants were followed for an average of 2.6 years, and were groups by their total amounts of sleep—less than 6 hours, 6 to 8 hours, 8 to 10 hours, and more than 10 hours, based on self-reports.

About 560 people, or 22%, developed metabolic syndrome during the study period. Those with the shortest sleep duration—less than 6 hours—had 30% increased risk of high blood sugar and excess belly fat and were 56% more likely to have hypertension, compared with those who reported sleeping longer.

While the study relies on participants’ recalling the number of hours they slept, the fact that it is a prospective study shows its value in the connection between sleep and development of metabolic disease. It’s among the recent findings reporting this connection.

A study reported in March at the Scientific Sessions of the American College of Cardiology showed how a personalized coaching program that included efforts to correct disrupted sleep, along with more traditional interventions like diet and exercise, reversed elevated blood glucose levels patients with prediabetes.

Evidence-Based Diabetes Management, a publication of The American Journal of Managed Care, reported on work by Harvard’s Frank Hu, MD, PhD, on the effects of shift work on those who have elevated risk of diabetes and heart disease. Persons who work rotating shifts are at especially high risk of obesity, hypertension, insomnia, stomach ulcers, depression, heart disease, and diabetes.


Kim JY, Yadav D, Ahn SV, et al. A prospective study of total sleep duration and incident metabolic syndrome: the ARIRANG study [published online September 25, 2015]. Sleep. 2015; doi:



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