MadSci Network: General Biology

Re: Can a long-term lack of sleep cause a person's blood sugar to go crazy?

Date: Wed Oct 4 17:53:17 2000
Posted By: Phyllis Stumbo, Staff, Nutrition, University of Iowa
Area of science: General Biology
ID: 969820542.Gb

You have touched on an interesting idea for a research project to examine 
sleep patterns and blood sugar control.  This question has been studied and 
you are correct, blood sugar control is hurt by sleep disturbances.  The 
research I am aware of involves radical changes in sleep pattern, as when 
people work at night and sleep during the day.  I can suggest an article 
that describes some of this research.  The article is available on the 
internet at this URL:  If this 
location does not work, you should find the article "Twenty-four-hour 
rhythms of plasma glucose and insulin secretion rate in regular night 
workers" by C. Simon, L. Weibel, and G. Brandenberger  in the Am Journal of 
Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism Vol. 278, Issue 3, E413-E420, 
March 2000.

This article is very technical and does not address your question directly, 
but if this is useful to you, there is a very good list of references at 
the end of this article.  You might be interested in references 10, 15, 20 
(from Am Journal of Physiology), 32 and 34, but again these articles are 
technical, and describe studies with complex procedures.

You are considering a study of students who have 4-6 hours of sleep 
compared to those who get 8-10 hours of sleep.  There are very likely 
differences in blood sugar control in students with different sleep 
patterns, however it is very difficult to measure the small changes you 
might expect.  This study may not be suitable for a science project.  You 
might consider a case study of one subject who would volunteer to stay 
awake very late to see if you can demonstrate an abnormal shift in blood 

Good luck to you on this very interesting project.

Phyllis Stumbo
University of Iowa

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