Sleep disturbances and insulin resistance

Diabet Med. 2011 Dec;28(12):1455-62. doi: 10.1111/j.1464-5491.2011.03459.x.


The causes and risk factors of insulin resistance remain insufficiently understood. After taking into account the important roles of adiposity, age, sex and race/ethnicity, up to 50% of the individual variability in insulin resistance remains unexplained. In recent years, evidence has accumulated to support a role for sleep disturbances, including insufficient sleep, poor sleep quality and insomnia, and obstructive sleep apnoea, as independent risk factors for the development and exacerbation of insulin resistance. The present review summarizes the evidence. We will start with a brief introduction to sleep and its disorders and then examine in succession the role of the three major types of sleep disturbances of modern society, namely insufficient sleep, poor sleep quality and/or insomnia and obstructive sleep apnoea. Insulin resistance is a hallmark of the polycystic ovary syndrome, the most common endocrine pathology in women, and the last section of this review will discuss the role of obstructive sleep apnoea in the insulin resistance and metabolic disturbances of polycystic ovary syndrome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance*
  • Male
  • Obesity / complications*
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / complications*
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / metabolism
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Polysomnography
  • Risk Factors
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / etiology*
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / metabolism
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / physiopathology
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / etiology*
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / metabolism
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / physiopathology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires