Diabetes: Poor Sleep Linked to Increased Health and Behaviour Problems

Photo: Girl sleeping on books 

A new study suggests that young diabetics may be struggling to get a good night's sleep, resulting in worse control of their blood sugar, poorer school performance and misbehaviour.

"Despite adhering to recommendations for good diabetic health, many youth with Type 1 diabetes have difficulty maintaining control of their blood sugars," said Michelle Perfect. "We found that it could be due to abnormalities in sleep, such as daytime sleepiness, lighter sleep and sleep apnoea. All of these make it more difficult to have good blood sugar control."

The study tracked the sleep health of 50 Type 1 diabetics, ages 10 to 16. Perfect and her colleagues compared that data with a similar control group. They found that the young diabetics spent more time in a lighter stage of sleep than youth without diabetes, which was related to compromised school performance and higher blood sugar levels.

"Sleep problems were associated with lower grades, poorer performance on state standardised tests, poor quality of life and abnormalities in daytime behaviour," Perfect said. "On the upside, sleep is a potentially modifiable health behaviour, so these kids could be helped by a qualified professional to get a better night's sleep."

Perfect and colleagues also found that nearly one-third of the youths in their study had sleep apnoea, regardless of weight. Sleep apnoea is associated with Type 2 diabetes, often referred to as adult-onset diabetes. These young participants with sleep apnoea showed significantly higher blood sugar levels – the same pattern linked to adults.

"Sleep apnoea and its impact may not be confined to older people with diabetes, we do not know," she said. "It is something that needs to be looked at again."; Source: American Academy of Sleep Medicine

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