How Your Sleep Patterns Can Affect Your Risk For Diabetes

Are you a night owl who thrives on working or studying late into the evening? While some people are more productive in the early mornings, others become more alert and have improved memory and attention at night. A 2019 study published in Nature Communications looked into the genes that determine your chronotype, which refers to whether you prefer to stay up late or wake up early. Turns out, genetics play a significant role in determining whether you're one or the other.

However, that doesn't mean you are stuck with what you've been genetically gifted. According to Live Science, you could make choices that help you adjust your sleep-wake cycle, such as switching your usual evening activities, like going to the gym or meeting with friends, to earlier times if you're trying to be more productive in the mornings. 

Fortunately, if you're naturally a night person or do not sleep until well into the night, making changes might actually be a good thing. This is because night owls are at a higher risk of developing a number of chronic health issues, including Type 2 diabetes, according to a 2022 study published in Experimental Physiology.

The reason being, the chronotype associated with staying up late impacts metabolism, and reduces activity output and aerobic fitness, which is suggested to increase the risk for Type 2 diabetes. However, there's more to consider. 

The role of glucose and sleep patterns

The researchers involved in the 2022 study published in Experimental Physiology also found that our body's circadian rhythm, which is our natural wake-sleep cycle, has an impact on how our body converts sugars and carbohydrates into glucose that we then use for energy. Those who like to stay up late, for example, were more likely to use carbohydrates for energy, while morning people preferred fats, as reported via AARP. As a result, night owls were more likely to experience insulin resistance, one of the factors that increase your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

In addition, those who had a chronotype preference for mornings tended to be more active during the day, burning more fat not only throughout the day but also during bouts of exercise (via WebMD). This could prevent fat storage that could lead to weight gain, a risk factor for a number of chronic diseases, again, including Type 2 diabetes.

In an interview with The Guardian, Steven Malin, one of the senior authors of the study, pointed out that one of the biggest issues night owls experience is that they often cannot maintain the circadian rhythm that's natural for them without losing sleep, and this contributes to health issues. In the case of night owls, for example, you'll find that people who stay up late still need to get up early in the morning to go to work, leading to sleep deficits over time.