Less Sleep Tied to Diabetes Risk in Children


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Children who sleep less may be at increased risk for Type 2 diabetes, researchers report.

Earlier studies found a link between shorter sleep and diabetes in adults, but the connection has been little studied in children.

British researchers studied 4,525 9- and 10-year olds from varying ethnic backgrounds. On average, their parents reported they slept 10 hours a night, with 95 percent sleeping between eight and 12 hours.

The study, in Pediatrics, found that the less sleep, the more likely the children were to have higher body mass indexes, higher insulin resistance and higher glucose readings. All three are risk factors for Type 2 diabetes.

Over all, increasing weekday sleep duration by an hour was associated with a 0.2 lower B.M.I. and a 3 percent reduction in insulin resistance. The reasons for the link remain unclear, but the researchers suggest that poor sleep may affect appetite regulation, leading to overeating and obesity. This observational study could not establish cause and effect.

Still, the senior author, Christopher G. Owen, a professor of epidemiology at St. George’s University of London, said that for children, the more sleep the better — there is no threshold.

“Increasing sleep is a very simple, low-cost intervention,” he said. “We should be doing our utmost to make sure that children sleep for an adequate amount of time.”

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