Can napping help prevent type 2 diabetes ? The answer is yes, but not in any way and not for everyone. So far, what has been demonstrated is the relationship – which is not yet known if it is causal – between a short nap (less than an hour) and a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes in people with a higher risk of suffer from this disease
The study that reveals this link is part of the Spanish project Predimed Plus ( Prevention with Mediterranean Diet Plus ) and has been carried out in a specific population: more than 2,000 elderly participants with metabolic syndrome, which is a set of risk factors that encompasses problems with triglycerides , glucose and blood pressure , in addition to low levels of HDL or ‘good’ cholesterol and obesity . “It is a particularly delicate population when it comes to heart disease ,” says dietitian-nutritionist Guillermo Mena Sánchez, a researcher at the Nutrition Unit of the Rovira and Virgili University , from Tarragona, member of the Network Research Center of Pathophysiology of Obesity and Nutrition (Ciberobn) and one of the authors of the study that has been published recently in the Journal of Clinical Medicine .
The researcher summarizes the main conclusion of the investigation: “You should not take a nap, but control its duration .” That is to say, nothing happens for not giving a nod after eating, but it is better not to sleep anything to do it for 90 minutes. A half-hour nap may be more than enough, and exceeding the hour of duration is associated with “increased risk of diabetes and abdominal fat accumulation .” Mena emphasizes that this work does not show a cause and effect relationship, which is what future studies must demonstrate. Today, it cannot be established for sure if long naps increase the risk of diabetes or what happens is that people with a higher risk of diabetes tend to sleep more during the day.
Hypothesis about the link between prolonged napping and diabetes
Regarding the mechanisms that could be behind the effect of long naps on the risk of diabetes, the dietitian-nutritionist points out that several hypotheses are investigated, among which the following stand out:
Sleeping too much during the day would uncontrol the hormones related to satiety and appetite , causing our hunger to increase and we eat again.
A half-hour nap allows for rapid reactivation . But if the period of sleep after eating is prolonged for 90 minutes, the body remains inactive for longer and it costs more to get going. Mena indicates that in this field “we must investigate further” to make firm recommendations.
Relationship between diabetes and sleep habits
A good diet, exercise regularly and sleep well are the three basic pillars to prevent obesity and type 2 diabetes. The first two are cited much more frequently, while the importance of sleep is often relegated. However, adequate rest habits are essential to control both weight and blood glucose levels. Sleeping at least 7 hours and with quality seems to be one of the keys to prevent both obesity and the risk of diabetes.
Mena adds another pattern that contributes to a healthy rest: regularity, that is, going to bed every night at a fixed time and sleeping during the same time . “If one day we slept six hours, another day four, the next eight … the body is out of adjustment.”
The new study adds another recommendation: sleeping for a while during the day is a good option, as long as the nap is limited to about 30 minutes.