Getting a good night’s sleep is fundamental to maintaining good health and wellness, and largely determines how a person’s mind and body will function the following day. Proper sleep ensures the body is able to manage the many hormones that are responsible for the immune system, appetite, weight control, and glucose levels and insulin resistance, making it particularly important to consider when dealing with the management of diabetes and the risk of developing the disease. A recent study from the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center (AFHSC) suggests service members who suffer from chronic insomnia are significantly more at risk for developing hypertension and type 2 diabetes than those without any sleep disturbances. The report is available in the journal Medical Surveillance Monthly Report, entitled, “Risk of type II diabetes and hypertension associated with chronic insomnia among active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 1998–2013.”
Insomnia is a common diagnosis among military personnel because of several work-related factors: regular deployments, demanding operations, erratic shifts, and the struggle to maintain relationships with friends and family. Lead author of the study and preventive medicine resident at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Lieutenant Colonel Paul E. Lewis of the Air Force, said, “This type of analysis has military relevance because it supports the notion that adequate sleep among our service members is important not only for accident prevention and work performance, but also for additional long-term health benefits.”
According to the report, military personnel diagnosed with chronic insomnia had a hazard ratio of 2.17 for type 2 diabetes, and 2.00 for hypertension, making them twice as likely to develop these serious health conditions. To arrive at these numbers, the researchers obtained active personnel information from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard from January 1, 1998 to December 31, 2013. They identified cases of chronic insomnia, and noted incidences of hypertension and type 2 diabetes before comparing data with the same number of personnel without insomnia.
The researchers were able to identify 205,740 cases of chronic insomnia across this 16-year surveillance period of active service members, with 2012 garnering the highest overall incidence rate at 252.3 cases for every 10,000 person-years. Notably, the Army had the highest rate among all the services at 432.8 in the same year. While the study included ethnicity, obesity, age, and gender in their cohort studies, incidences of hypertension and diabetes were, in general, still elevated among personnel with insomnia, regardless of these other factors.
It is important to note that previous conflicting studies on the link between sleep disturbances and hypertension and diabetes among civilians do not necessarily follow the same trends observed among service members. Military personnel are mostly younger and have less co-morbidity than their counterparts in the general population.