Study explores role of sleep in children and risk of type 2 diabetes

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Children who sleep for an extra hour during the week reduce their chances of developing type 2 diabetes, according to new research.
Children who had an additional 60 minutes of sleep on school nights had lower levels of two key indicators used to measure type 2 diabetes risk.
However, these findings were not causational, merely associative. More research is needed to expand upon these findings and parents should not worry that reduced sleep in their children will lead to type 2 diabetes.
A research team from St George’s University of London analysed the results of a previous study which collected lifestyle information from more than 4,500 school children aged nine and 10.
They found that on average the children slept for 10.5 hours per night. Those who slept for an hour more over a week had an average 2.9 per cent lower degree of insulin resistance and reduced blood glucose levels.
While the children who had longer sleeping patterns were healthier, the scientists found no link between sleep time and HbA1c or cardiovascular risk.
The research did, however, establish a link between sleep time and obesity. The children who slept for longer had lower body weight and levels of fat mass index.
Researcher Alicja R. Rudnicka explained: “This confirms the association between short sleep duration and body fatness. Given the rising prevalence of diabetes worldwide and especially in low- to middle-income countries, we believe our findings will help motivate further simple, pragmatic trials in this area.”
Commenting on the findings, Dr Nicole Glaser alongside DR Dennis Styne, who both work for University of California Davis, said the research “brings us a step closer to understanding the relationship between sleep, obesity, and the metabolic syndrome”.
They added: “These data are important because they confirm that the relationship between sleep, obesity, and the metabolic syndrome is unlikely to simply reflect lifestyle variables – such as activity level, screen time, or parental vigilance – and instead reflect more complex relationships that must be explored.”
One of the limitations of the study was that sleep was only measured during the school week.
The findings were published in the journal Pediatrics.