Assessing the Causal Role of Sleep Traits on Glycated Hemoglobin: A Mendelian Randomization Study

Junxi Liu, Rebecca C. Richmond, Jack Bowden, Ciarrah Barry, Hassan S. Dashti, Iyas Daghlas, Jacqueline M. Lane, Samuel E. Jones, Andrew R. Wood, Timothy M. Frayling, Alison K. Wright, Matthew J. Carr, Simon G. Anderson, Richard A. Emsley, David W. Ray, Michael N. Weedon, Richa Saxena, Deborah A. Lawlor, Martin K. Rutter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVE: To examine the effects of sleep traits on glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c). RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS: This study triangulated evidence across multivariable regression (MVR) and one- (1SMR) and two-sample Mendelian randomization (2SMR) including sensitivity analyses on the effects of five self-reported sleep traits (i.e., insomnia symptoms [difficulty initiating or maintaining sleep], sleep duration, daytime sleepiness, napping, and chronotype) on HbA1c (in SD units) in adults of European ancestry from the UK Biobank (for MVR and 1SMR analyses) (n = 336,999; mean [SD] age 57 [8] years; 54% female) and in the genome-wide association studies from the Meta-Analyses of Glucose and Insulin-Related Traits Consortium (MAGIC) (for 2SMR analysis) (n = 46,368; 53 [11] years; 52% female). RESULTS: Across MVR, 1SMR, 2SMR, and their sensitivity analyses, we found a higher frequency of insomnia symptoms (usually vs. sometimes or rarely/never) was associated with higher HbA1c (MVR 0.05 SD units [95% CI 0.04-0.06]; 1SMR 0.52 [0.42-0.63]; 2SMR 0.24 [0.11-0.36]). Associations remained, but point estimates were somewhat attenuated after excluding participants with diabetes. For other sleep traits, there was less consistency across methods, with some but not all providing evidence of an effect. CONCLUSIONS: Our results suggest that frequent insomnia symptoms cause higher HbA1c levels and, by implication, that insomnia has a causal role in type 2 diabetes. These findings could have important implications for developing and evaluating strategies that improve sleep habits to reduce hyperglycemia and prevent diabetes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)772-781
Number of pages10
JournalDiabetes Care
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2022


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