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Diabetes

Updated 09 October 2020

Why early bedtime may be best for people with type 2 diabetes

Understanding how sleep time can affect physical activity might help people with type 2 diabetes manage their health, according to a new study.

  • People who go to bed late and get up late tend to get less exercise, putting their health at greater risk
  • This is especially true for type 2 diabetics
  • Changing their sleeping patterns could help get them back on a path to good health


It's long been said that early to bed, early to rise can make you healthy, wealthy and wise. Now, new research supports at least the health benefits.

A study of people with type 2 diabetes found that night owls – people who go to bed late and get up late – tend to get little exercise, putting their health at greater risk.

Understanding how sleep time can affect physical activity might help people with type 2 diabetes manage their health, said researcher Dr Joseph Henson of the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom.

"There is a massive need for large-scale interventions to help people with diabetes initiate, maintain and achieve the benefits of an active lifestyle," he said. "For people who prefer to go to bed later and get up later, this is even more important, with our research showing that night owls exercise 56% less than their early bird counterparts."

Insight into behaviour

Exercise is important for everyone, including people with diabetes. It helps maintain a healthy weight and blood pressure, and also reduces the risk of heart disease, Henson said.

For the study, more than 600 patients with type 2 diabetes wore tracking devices for a week to record intensity and time of their activity, including sleep, rest and overall physical activity.

The findings showed that 25% of the participants went to sleep and rose early; 23% went to bed late and got up late; and 52% did neither.

Researcher Dr Alex Rowlands, an adjunct research fellow at the University of South Australia, said the study offers insight into behaviour of people with type 2 diabetes.

"The link between later sleep times and physical activity is clear: go to bed late and you're less likely to be active," Rowlands said. "For someone with diabetes, this is valuable information that could help get them back on a path to good health."

The findings were published online recently in BMJ Open: Diabetes Research and Care.

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Dr. May currently works as a fulltime endocrinologist and has been in private practice since 2004. He has a variety of interests, predominantly obesity and diabetes, but also sees patients with osteoporosis, thyroid disorders, men's health disorders, pituitary and adrenal disorders, polycystic ovaries, and disorders of growth. He is a leading member of several obesity and diabetes societies and runs a trial centre for new drugs.

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