Sleep has been shown in many, many studies over the last decade or so to hold important control over diabetes. In particular sleep is directly linked to insulin resistance.
While we sleep there are a number of things that happen without our knowledge. Our body and brain are fantastic at repairing damage from the day before and generally doing a 'system reboot'. Part of this process increases the insulin sensitivity of our fat cells. What does that mean?
Our fat cells are where excess sugar in our diet is stored. The sugar can also be stored in our liver and muscles but the fat cells will take the largest amount. If we eat a sugary meal then our blood sugar levels will rise. If it gets too high then bad things happen (remember homeostasis). In order to prevent this from happening our bodies release a hormone called insulin. This hormone acts on the fat (and liver/muscle) cells and basically opens their doors to sugar. Sugar is then extracted from the blood and stored in those cells as a tri-glyceride (fat) or glycogen (if in the muscles or liver).
The important thing here is that our cells are triggered to open their doors to sugar by insulin. If our insulin level is relatively high for a long period of time (like if we eat a lot of sugary food over our lives) then the cells actually start to 'ignore' the insulin. They start to become insulin resistant. This means our bodies need to release more and more insulin to get the same response from our cells. Eventually this leads to our pancreas (produces the insulin) wearing out and not being able to do its job anymore. Hello diabetes.
Sleep has been shown to actually reverse the insulin resistance of the cells in our body. That is, sleep makes our cells more sensitive to insulin. It reduces the level of insulin needed to get a response. This is vital to ensure that our body works efficiently and organs, such as the pancreas, don't get 'worn out' by working too hard.
Insulin resistance is also linked to a number of other diseases and issues such as obesity and heart disease. To reduce your chances of getting either of these, and to help with weight control, you need to get a good amount of sleep. This varies for everyone, but generally sits between 7-9 hours per night. If you wake up tired then something's not quite right! If you get sleepy throughout the day then something's not quite right (although that one could be your diet).
If you take anything from this today we hope it's the importance of a good night sleep. Get to bed before midnight and the chances are you'll get a better quality sleep too!