A poor night's sleep may increase teens' risk of type 2 diabetes

A troubling number of adolescents are overweight or obese, which puts them at a significantly higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. New research suggests that they may be even more vulnerable to the condition if they have poor sleep habits.

A team of researchers from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia reported in the journal Diabetes Care that teens who sleep less than 7.5 hours per night or more than 8.5 hours per night have significantly higher blood sugar levels than adolescents who get more moderate amounts of sleep.

Additionally, teens who have limited periods of N3, or deep, sleep also appear to be at a higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

The researchers found that this association largely stems from the fact that a lack of sleep appears to restrict the amount of insulin secreted by the pancreas. This problem was magnified in obese adolescents.

There are many impediments to getting a full night's sleep for teens these days. School gets them out of bed in the early hours of the morning, extra-curricular activities fill up their time after school and a host of electronic devices and entertainment options keep them busy into the late hours of the evening. These busy days apparently put teens at a higher risk of type 2 diabetes.

"We already know that three out of four high school students report getting insufficient sleep," said Dorit Koren, MD, the lead researcher on the investigation. "Our study found to keep glucose levels stable, the optimal amount of sleep for teenagers is 7.5 to 8.5 hours per night."

She added that the confluence of the childhood obesity epidemic and the fact that so many people fail to get an appropriate amount of sleep at night could make the situation even more troubling. Addressing these situations in concert could play an important role in preventing type 2 diabetes from severely affecting the current generation of adolescents.