Shortened Sleep Increases Risk of Childhood Type 2 Diabetes

Increasing sleep by a half hour significantly reduced body weight and insulin resistance.

In the United States, it is recommended that children sleep for 8 to 13 hours per night, depending on age. The NHS Choices recommends that children aged 10 years should sleep for 10 hours per night.

A new study published by Pediatrics suggests that children who slept for as little as 1 hour less than the recommended time had an increased risk of developing diabetes, including higher blood glucose levels and insulin resistance.

"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,” said lead researcher Christopher G Owen. "Potential benefits associated with increased sleep in childhood may have implications for health in adulthood."

These findings confirmed previous studies that showed a link between shorter sleep and higher levels of body fat.

Included in the new study were 4525 children aged 9 to 10 years living in England. The authors analyzed body measurements, blood samples, and questionnaire data for each participant. Sleep duration was evaluated from self-reported data regarding typical time going to sleep and getting up during the school week.

The authors found that children who slept longer had lower body weight, including lower levels of fat, according to the study. Longer sleep was also inversely linked to insulin, insulin resistance, and blood glucose.

However, these findings did not indicate that shortened sleep was linked to cardiovascular risk factors, such as blood fats and blood pressure, according to the study.

In adjusted models, increasing sleep by 1 hour resulted in a 0.19 lower body mass index (BMI), 0.03 kg/m5 lower fat mass index, 2.9% lower insulin resistance, and 0.24% lower fasting glucose levels, according to the study.

The authors hypothesize that increasing the mean weekday sleep duration by a half-hour would result in significant benefits to children.

Reducing these markers may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes (T2D) later in life, according to the authors.

“Intervention studies are needed to establish the causality of these associations, which could provide a simple strategy for early T2D prevention,” the authors wrote.