Losing a single night’s sleep affects the liver’s ability to produce glucose and process insulin, increasing the risk of fatty liver disease and type 2 diabetes. The findings, which are based on mouse models, have been published in the American Journal of Physiology.
The researchers studied two groups of mice: One group was kept awake for six hours each night, while the control group was allowed to sleep as desired. The research team offered unlimited high-fat food and sugar water (mimicking lifestyle-related food choices that people make) to both groups prior to the study. During the sleep / wake period, the animals had limited opportunity for physical activity.
The researchers measured glucose levels and fat content of the liver immediately after the trial period. Blood glucose levels were significantly higher in the sleep deprivation group than controls after one six-hour session of wakefulness.
Fat levels and the production of glucose in the liver also increased in the sleep deprivation group after a single wake period. Elevated liver triglycerides are associated with insulin resistance, or the inability of the body to process insulin properly.
These findings suggest that intervention studies designed to prevent sleep deprivation-induced insulin resistance should be performed in the future.