In the study, published this week in the Archives of Internal Medicine, the team suggested that the link between sleep and blood sugar control is also likely to affect other ethnic groups.
"Sleep curtailment has become increasingly prevalent in modern society and it cannot be excluded that this behavior has contributed to the current epidemic of type 2 diabetes," said researcher Dr. Eve Van Cauter.
The scientists interviewed 161 black adults with type 2 diabetes and determined the average length of sleep was six hours per night. Twenty-two percent of respondents averaged at least seven hours of sleep, 6 percent got eight hours of sleep, and 71 percent of the group did not sleep well. The respondents who received little or poor sleep showed higher hemoglobin A1C levels -- a sign of poor blood sugar control -- even when factors such as being overweight were accounted for.
The painful complications associated with diabetes can also disrupt sleep, but when the researchers excluded 39 participants with painful diabetes conditions, 67 percent of the remaining group still reported poor sleep and had an average A1C level of 8.2 percent; the recommended A1C level is 7 percent or lower.
Perception of sleep was also a factor, as subjects without painful complications got an average of 3 hours less sleep than they felt they needed showed a subsequent 1.1 increase in A1C levels.
"The growing tendency to burn the candle at both ends may be a significant contributor to the current epidemic of diabetes," said Van Cauter. "One way to combat this epidemic may be to repay our mounting sleep debt."