Sleep disturbances, including sleep insufficiency and sleep fragmentation, have been linked to abnormal glucose metabolism and increased diabetes risk. Well-controlled laboratory studies have provided insights regarding the underlying mechanisms. Several large prospective studies suggest that these sleep disturbances are associated with an increased risk of incident diabetes. Obstructive sleep apnea, which combines sleep fragmentation and hypoxemia, is a major risk factor for insulin resistance and possibly diabetes. Whether glycemic control in type 2 diabetes patients can be improved by treating sleep apnea remains controversial. Recently, sleep disturbances during pregnancy and their relationship to gestational diabetes and hyperglycemia have received considerable attention owing to potential adverse effects on maternal and fetal health. Additionally, evidence from animal models has identified disruption of the circadian system as a putative risk factor for adverse metabolic outcomes. The purpose of this review is to provide an update on the current state of knowledge linking sleep disturbances, circadian dysfunction, and glucose metabolism. Experimental, prospective, and interventional studies are discussed.
Keywords: circadian rhythms; diabetes; glucose metabolism; sleep; sleep apnea.
© 2014 New York Academy of Sciences.