Substantial observational evidence has tied insufficient sleep to obesity, type 2 diabetes, dyslipidemia, and hypertension, and some studies have shown potential mechanisms for the link, according to Bernd Schultes, MD, of the eSwiss Medical and Surgical Center in Gallen, Switzerland, and colleagues.
They reported their findings online in a review in the Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.
“Although long-term interventional studies proving a cause-and-effect association are still scarce, sleep loss seems to be an appealing target for the prevention, and probably treatment, of metabolic disease,” they wrote.
The observational studies showing such a link include those that have tied sleep issues to cardiometabolic risk as well as risk of type 2 diabetes.
The potential mechanisms linking sleep problems with metabolic issues include effects on the body’s ability to metabolize glucose, control food intake, and maintain energy balance, the researchers reported.
They said the findings open the door for new strategies of targeted interventions aimed at an “epidemic” of metabolic diseases.
“Sleep loss seems to be a promising target for the prevention, and probably the treatment, of the metabolic syndrome and its components,” they wrote.
Since screens and devices may play a key role in dysregulated sleep, cognitive behavioral therapies focusing on improved sleep hygiene may help. So, too, would optimizing work schedules that exert a less impairing effect on metabolic health among shift workers, they added.
Future studies needed to show whether such interventions to improve sleep duration and quality can prevent or reverse metabolic traits. But on the basis of the current evidence, they wrote, doctors can be “safely recommended to motivate their patients to enjoy sufficient sleep at the right time of day.”