A Good Night’s Sleep May Keep Diabetes at Bay

Diabetes and SleepA good night’s sleep is the best medicine, goes the saying, and researchers have now found evidence that it certainly is for overweight youngsters, who may be less likely to develop diabetes if they sleep well.

We all need sleep, with the average adult enjoying between six and eight hours a night and children even more.  Sleep rests the body and the mind and gives the immune system a chance to restore itself.  Muscle and bone tissues and organs also rest and regenerate, and in children the growth hormones are secreted in sleep.  AUniversityofCaliforniastudy of more than a million adults found that those who slept soundly for 7 to 8 hours a night had the longest life expectancy.  The study also found evidence that insufficient sleep was associated with weight gain, high blood pressure and an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes.

Normal sleep patterns involve three stages of NREM sleep – non-rapid eye movement – in which the sleeper is quite lightly asleep, followed by rapid eye movement (REM) sleep in which dreams occur.

Now a study of 62 obese teenagers has come up with evidence that insufficient sleep may increase the risk of them getting diabetes, while a good deep snooze lowers the risk.  The 62 kids, who had an average age of 14, were studied at the Children’sHospitalofPhiladelphiafor a 36 hour period.  They slept overnight at the facility and underwent glucose testing.  While the children slept they were monitored for REM and other stages of sleep to see how deeply they slept.

Being obese, the youngsters were already at increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, and the study found that those who did not sleep well or for long enough secreted less insulin – the hormone that controls blood sugar levels.  However, the team also found that the teenagers who spent too much time sleeping had higher blood sugar levels as well.

The children who slept well for between 7.5 and 8.5 hours were the ones who kept stable blood sugar levels and had sufficient insulin to meet their metabolic needs.

Study leader Dr Dorit Koren said, “Reduced insulin secretion may lead to the higher glucose levels that we found in subjects who had insufficient sleep.  Our study reinforces the idea that getting adequate sleep in adolescence may help protect against type 2 diabetes.”  She said the research would continue with study of sleep patterns of obese youngsters in their own homes to check their results.

Youngsters of normal weight, who are more likely to take part in physical exercise such as contact sport, running, cycling and swimming, may well find getting adequate sleep easy.  Obese youngsters, who may find opportunities to avoid sports in school because they do not feel physically up to the effort or feel self conscious about their bodies, may often not get physically tired enough to sleep well.

Other lifestyle choices may also affect the ability of youngsters to sleep well, including the consumption of caffeine-laden sodas and sugary snacks, especially late at night.  The substitution of warm milk for sodas is a healthier choice and one more likely to encourage sleep.

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