Researchers uncovered a connection between poor sleep and wound healing in type 2 diabetes that could pave the way for new treatments.
Diabetes is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. Type 2 diabetesis the most common form of diabetes, and it impacts the ability of the body to produceinsulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar levels.
One serious complication of diabetes are ulcers that can form from wounds. Feet are one of the most common places of injury. Small wounds that develop on feet can eventually become ulcers. According to the American Podiatric Medical Association,14–24 percentof people with diabetes who develop an ulcer end up having a lower limb amputation.
Diabetes in numbers
According to the American Diabetes Association, the total estimated cost of diagnosed diabetes in 2012 was more than $240 billion, including almost $70 billion in reduced productivity. People with diabetes have medical expenditures approximately two times higher than people who do not have the disease. These numbers highlight the economic weight that diabetes has on society. Prediabetes is a health condition in which blood sugar levels rise, but the level is not high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes. More than80 millionU.S. adults have prediabetes, and the majority of these people are not aware of it because symptoms may not show for years. Prediabetes can lead to type 2 diabetes,heart disease, andstroke.
Poor sleep and wound healing
A new study, published recently in the journal SLEEP, studied the impact of sleep fragmentation on wound healing. The scientists compared obese mice with features of type 2 diabetes with normal-weight mice without type 2 diabetes. First study author Mark McLain, of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, collaborated with Prof. Ralph Lydic and others from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and the University of Tennessee Graduate School of Medicine. The team anesthetized 34 adult male mice and created small surgical wounds on their backs. Then, they measured how long it took those wounds to heal under two conditions: one group of rodents followed a regular sleep schedule, while the other group was forced to wake up multiple times each night. The interrupted sleep pattern caused a significant delay in wound healing in rodents with diabetes. The animals that slept poorly needed around 13 days to reach 50 percent healing, compared with the group without interrupted sleep, which needed around 10 days.
Normal-weight mice achieved 50 percent of wound healing in less than 1 week and complete healing in just 2 weeks.
Researchers observed that type 2 diabetes might lead to poor blood circulation and nerve damage. Because of these complications, the body is more likely to become infected.
Sleep quality affects the immune system and weakens the healing process, so it's easy to see the connection between sleep and wound healing. Studies have shown that sleep is crucial for the immune response. A lack of sleep can weaken the immune reaction, exposing the body to infection; for instance, shorter sleep durations are linked to a higher risk of developing the common cold.
Prof. Lydic plans to continue his research on this topic, saying, "This is a public health issue, and we want to contribute to a solution. Next, we want to explore the effect that specific drugs have on wound healing in these same groups of mice with disrupted sleep."