Parents have a new reason to send sleep-deprived teens to bed earlier. Doing so might reduce kids’ risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
People with type 2 diabetes gradually stop producing insulin, a hormone that helps the body use sugar from the food we eat for energy and growth. One of the signs that diabetes might be setting in is something called “insulin resistance,” where the cells stop responding to insulin the body makes. Insulin resistance can be affected by age, race, gender, waist circumference, body mass index and, apparently, sleep.
Looking at 245 healthy high school students, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh found that when teens who normally got six hours of sleep per night added just one extra hour, they improved their bodies’ response to insulin by 9 percent. And while the American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends nine hours of sleep or more per night for teens, those in the study averaged just 6.4 hours per night during the week.
Most current efforts to help prevent diabetes in teens focus on reducing weight by improving diet and boosting physical activity. This study’s authors recommend that promoting healthy sleep habits become a part of the diabetes-prevention picture.
The study was reported in the October issue of the journal SLEEP.
Christina Elston is a senior editor, health writer and regular contributor to the Boston Parents Paper.