Is there a link between the circadian rhythm and diabetes risk? New research on how an increase in exposure to artificial light over the past years may be contributing to higher rates of insulin resistance is helping to establish a connection between circadian rhythm function and Type 2 diabetes.
Here is what you need to know about this connection and what you can do to support a healthy circadian rhythm.
What is Insulin Resistance and Type 2 Diabetes?
Insulin resistance is a metabolic disorder that occurs when the body does not respond to the production and function of insulin as programmed. The critical hormone of insulin is essential for the proper regulation of blood sugar levels. Cells that become too resistant to insulin may trigger elevated blood glucose levels, a state known as hyperglycemia. This is a precursor to a number of health conditions, including prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes.
While some forms of insulin resistance are temporary issues that eventually resolve, a chronically impaired sensitivity to insulin can raise the risk of Type 2 diabetes down the road. However, diabetes is not the only complication associated with insulin resistance. This health condition also raises your risk of developing various forms of cardiovascular disease, a wide array of metabolic syndromes, obesity and fatty liver disease.
It is important to note that insulin resistance can be caused by a variety of lifestyle and genetic factors. While you cannot control the genetic factors that may raise your risk, there are steps that you can take to reduce the odds that you will develop this disorder. These include an intentional effort to eat a nutritious diet, exercise regularly and be mindful of the medications that may contribute to insulin resistance.
How Circadian Rhythm Function Impacts Overall Health
The body’s circadian rhythm function has been demonstrated to impact a number of health issues. The most obvious way that people see their circadian rhythms in action is through sleep patterns. These rhythms impact the production of melatonin, the hormone that is responsible for the body’s sleep and awake cycles. Without the proper production and release of melatonin, an individual’s sleep patterns can become disjointed.
However, the circadian rhythm can also influence functions such as the release of other hormones, body temperatures and digestion. Disruptions to this natural cycle may lead to health complications such as some types of cancers and mood disorders.
The Connection Between Circadian Rhythm and Diabetes Risk
A recent report in the journal Diabetologia demonstrated that an increased exposure to societal changes such as artificial light may be a reason for a rise in diagnosed cases of insulin resistance. The researchers studied people who were already diagnosed with insulin resistance with the goal of determining whether differences in light exposure changed the body’s metabolism.
The results of the study suggested that the timing of when the body is exposed to light can impact the ability to process glucose and fats. This timing may also be responsible for core body temperature regulation in people who are insulin resistant.
The scientists arrived at this conclusion after discovering that the release of melatonin was suppressed in the evening hours when artificial light exposure was manipulated to be higher. However, individuals who spent the bulk of their day exposed to bright natural light followed by dimmer lights in the evening hours demonstrated higher melatonin levels at night, a situation that supports better sleep habits.
Ways to Support a Healthy Circadian Rhythm
Now that you realize how a well-functioning circadian rhythm can boost your overall health while also possibly reducing your risk of Type 2 diabetes, you need to know what you can do to support healthy circadian rhythm function. The most important step in regulating this rhythm is to recognize how your exposure to both natural and artificial light may impact its function. Exposing your body to natural light during the daytime hours while being mindful about lowering your exposure to artificial lighting as you naturally wind down for sleep in the evening hours is a good practice to follow.
It is also important to be diligent about following a regular schedule when it comes to sleeping and eating. Because the circadian rhythm and metabolic systems are intricately intertwined, it is vital that the two work in partnership. For example, eating a heavy meal or drinking a caffeinated beverage in the hours prior to bedtime can wreak havoc on the body’s ability to fall asleep.
It is a good idea to consult with a medical professional if being proactive about encouraging a regular circadian rhythm is not working for you. It may be that you need to lean on artificial light therapy or melatonin supplements to support this function.
As more is being discovered about the body’s natural circadian rhythms, it is becoming clear that this function can influence a wide array of health issues. Being proactive about supporting this natural rhythm is a good decision for your overall health, including reducing the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.