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Less sleep in children linked to increased risk of diabetes

Published on 16/08/17 at 09:51am

A study emerging from St George’s University of London found that children who slept an hour less than the recommended amount were more likely to have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Children aged 10-years-old are expected to manage approximately 10 hours of sleep per night, and those achieving fewer hours were found to have higher levels of body fat and insulin resistance.

The research involved 4,525 children of various ethnic descents between the ages of 9 and 10 years old. Parents were asked to report the number of hours the children slept then measurements were taken of body fat and insulin resistance in children.

The research did not investigate directly why there was the causal link between sleep and diabetes risk. However, those children who slept for longer were found to have lower body weight and fat mass while also exhibiting less sugar in the blood. The study concluded that increasing sleep duration by half an hour could be associated with a 0.1 kg/m² lower body mass index and a 0.5 percent reduction in insulin resistance.

Professor Christopher G Owen, who led the research at St George’s, University of London, said: “These findings suggest increasing sleep duration could offer a simple approach to reducing levels of body fat and type 2 diabetes risk from early life. Potential benefits associated with increased sleep in childhood may have implications for health in adulthood.”

Parents could well argue that children sleep for varying amounts of time and that being prescriptive with hours of sleep would not be helpful. However, researchers commenting on the study have advised that ‘sleep hygiene’ can be followed to help children, and adults, sleep for longer periods of time.

The sleep hygiene recommended is to limit the amount of time spent using screens, such as computers and television, before going to bed and also to ensure that bedrooms are suitably dark.

In addition, the research did not find any direct association between the amount of hours slept and cardiovascular risk factors, such as blood pressure and lipids. Researchers did note that the higher levels of body fat and the impact on the body’s metabolism, through lower levels of sleep, could indicate increased potential risk later on in life.

Ben Hargreaves

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