An extra hour of sleep could reduce type 2 diabetes risks in children

John Murphy, MDLinx | September 19, 2017

Less sleep is associated with higher risk for type 2 diabetes in children, including higher levels of blood glucose and insulin resistance as well as greater body weight and higher levels of fat mass, according to a study published in the journal Pediatrics. Conversely, children who extend their average night’s sleep by one hour may modestly reduce their body-mass index (BMI) and insulin resistance—positive effects that could persist into later life, noted researchers in England.


You snooze, you lose!

An extra hour of sleep each night may modestly reduce a child's body fat and type 2 diabetes risk factors.

“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 investigator Christopher G. Owen, PhD, Professor of Epidemiology in the Population Health Research Institute at St. George’s University of London, in London, United Kingdom. “Potential benefits associated with increased sleep in childhood may have implications for health in adulthood.”

Prior research has shown that reduced sleep is associated with obesity in both adults and children, and with type 2 diabetes in adults. But the link between sleep duration and risk markers for type 2 diabetes in children hasn’t been well investigated.

In this large study, researchers obtained data on more than 4,500 school children, ages 9 and 10, of various races and ethnicities in the UK. Children self-reported their sleep times, which were validated in a subset of children who wore accelerometers. Fasting blood samples provided levels of serum lipids and insulin, plasma glucose, and HbA1c. Trained research nurses measured the children’s height, weight, BMI, adiposity, and blood pressure.

The results revealed an inverse association between sleep duration and type 2 diabetes risk markers. Children slept an average 10.5 hours a night. Adjusted data showed that one additional hour of sleep per night duration was associated with:

  • 0.19 lower BMI
  • 0.03 kg/m5 lower fat mass index
  • 2.88% lower insulin levels
  • 2.81% lower insulin resistance
  • 0.24% lower fasting glucose

However, an extra hour’s sleep showed no associations with HbA1c or cardiovascular risk.

“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,” the researchers wrote.

They cautioned that the results don’t necessarily show that greater sleep causes reduced risk factors for type 2 diabetes. But, “If experimental evidence were to corroborate the associations observed between sleep duration and type 2 diabetes precursors (allowing a causal association to be inferred), these effects could plausibly persist into later life,” the authors concluded.