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Sleep disturbances and Type 2 diabetes

Project summary

Dr Martin Rutter plans to work out if sleep problems can help to predict who’s at risk of Type 2 diabetes. He’ll also look at whether sleep patterns in people with Type 2 diabetes can affect their blood glucose control and risk of complications. This research could help to prevent some people developing Type 2 diabetes and improve the health of people living with the condition.

Background to research

We all have a ‘biological clock’ which controls our sleep patterns and how our body uses glucose. Modern life can disturb this clock, resulting in too little sleep, broken sleep or sleeping at the wrong times.

Earlier research has suggested that people with these kind of sleep problems may have a higher risk of Type 2 diabetes. Some studies have also shown that disrupted sleep could raise blood glucose levels.

Research aims

Dr Rutter will look at data about sleep disturbances from the UK Biobank: one of the largest health studies in the world, co-funded by us. It collects biological samples (like blood and saliva) and other measurements (including weight, blood pressure and sleep) from over 500,000 volunteers in the UK in order to follow their health.

100,000 of these people have worn an activity monitor, which gives more detailed picture of sleep disturbances and patterns. Dr Rutter’s team will also look at information collected on genes, blood glucose control and who went on to develop Type 2 diabetes. Using all of this information together, they want to find out if measuring sleep disturbance can help us predict who’ll get Type 2 diabetes in the future.

Dr Rutter will then study people with Type 2 diabetes, to see if sleep disturbance affects their blood glucose control and increases their risk of diabetes complications.

Potential benefit to people with diabetes

This research could help us to better identify those at high risk of Type 2 diabetes, so people can be supported to lower their risk. If this study shows that blood glucose control and complications are affected by sleep, this could potentially open up a new way to help people with Type 2 diabetes manage their condition and reduce their risk of complications.

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