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The study found significant improvements in insulin sensitivity -- the body's ability to clear sugar from the blood -- among sleep-deprived men after they had three nights of extra sleep.
"We all know we need to get adequate sleep, but that is often impossible because of work demands and busy lifestyles," Dr. Peter Liu, a researcher at the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute, said in an institute news release.
"Our study found extending the hours of sleep can improve the body's use of insulin, thereby reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes in adult men," Liu said. "Reducing the incidence of this chronic illness is critical for a nation where diabetes affects nearly 26 million people and costs an estimated $174 billion annually."
The study included 19 men without diabetes, whose average age was about 29. They slept only 6.2 hours per night during the week but regularly caught up on their sleep on the weekends by sleeping an extra 2.3 hours per night.
Participants spent three nights in a sleep lab on each of two separate weekends and were randomly assigned to varying sleep schedules. These included 10 hours of sleep; six hours of sleep; or 10 hours spent in bed, during which noises during deep sleep aroused them into shallow sleep without waking them.
The men's blood sugar and insulin levels were checked on the fourth morning to calculate their insulin sensitivity.
When the men had 10 hours of sleep for three consecutive nights, their insulin sensitivity was much better than when they got less sleep, according to the study, which is scheduled for presentation Tuesday at the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society in San Francisco.
The findings are important for people who don't get enough sleep during the week due to work and busy lifestyles, but catch up on their sleep on weekends, the news release suggested.
"The good news is that by extending the hours they sleep, adult men who over a long period of time do not get enough sleep during the working week can still improve their insulin sensitivity," Liu said.
Because this study was presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
-- Robert Preidt
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SOURCE: Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute, news release, June 18, 2013