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Lack of Sleep in Children May Lead to Diabetes

03/1/2010
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A new study conducted by American and Chinese researchers have shown a link between how much sleep a child gets to higher blood sugar levels, which may ultimately lead to diabetes.

High blood sugar is extremely harmful to the body which can shorten life span and damage organs. Excessive glucose levels can damage organs and cause complications often seen in the later stages of diabetes. According to a study by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, raised blood glucose levels, directly damage the insulin producing beta cells in the pancreas and certain other sensitive cells, such as the eyes, the kidneys and nervous system.

The researchers found that children, who slept 8 hours or less a night, increased their risks of developing high blood sugar levels that can trigger type 1 and type 2 diabetes. The risk is greater for children ages 3-6. Dr Zhijie Yu, at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Shanghai, reported that “shorter sleep seemed to influence blood sugar independently of other large factors such as age, gender, birth-related influences, early life feeding or later diet, recent illness, physical activity, body mass, and waist girth.”

Yu’s team conducted their studies on 619 obese and 617 non-obese children who were 3-6 years in age and free from diabetes or blood sugar problems.  In Yu’s study, high blood sugar levels appeared more likely in the shorter-sleeping non-obese and obese children. High blood sugar levels were seen in 23 of the 217 non-obese and in 49 of the 291 obese children sleeping less than 8 hours.

Yu’s study also found that there is a link in the number hours of sleep a child has and weight. His finding show that obese children averaged 8 or less hours of sleep a night, while non-obese children averaged 9-10 or 11 plus hours of sleep a night. Yu’s commented that like adults, “Adequate sleep may help kids maintain a healthy body weight and blood sugar level.”

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