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Children who sleep an hour less than average are at ‘higher risk of type 2 diabetes’

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Children who sleep on average one hour less a night have higher risk factors for type 2 diabetes, including higher levels of blood glucose and insulin resistance, according to UK researchers.

Their study, published in the journal Pediatrics, also confirmed previous research suggesting an association between shorter sleep duration and higher levels of body fat.

“Increasing sleep duration could offer a simple approach to reducing type 2 diabetes risk from early life”

Christopher Owen

The study found that increasing the mean weekday sleep duration by half an hour could be associated with a 0.1 kg/m² lower body mass index and a 0.5% reduction in insulin resistance.

Reducing these levels may have longer-term implications for reduced type 2 Diabetes in later life, stated the study authors from St George’s, University of London, and the University of Glasgow.

The researchers said that prior to their study associations between sleep duration and type 2 diabetes risk markers in childhood “have been little studied”.

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To investigate the area, they analysed the body measurements, blood sample results and questionnaire data from 4,525 children of multi-ethnic descent, aged nine to 10 years, in England.

Sleep time was calculated from self-reported usual time of going to bed and getting up on a school day. Based on this, on average, children slept for 10.5 hours per night.

Children who slept longer had lower body weight and lower levels of fat mass. Sleep duration was also inversely related to insulin, insulin resistance and blood glucose.

An hour longer of sleep was linked to a 0.19 lower body mass index, 0.03 kg/m5 lower fat mass index, 2.9% lower homeostasis model assessment insulin resistance, and 0.24% lower fasting glucose.

However, the study did not find an association between sleep duration and cardiovascular risk factors, including blood lipids and blood pressure.

The researchers noted that the NHS Choices website recommended sleep duration for a 10 -year-old was 10 hours.

Lead study author Professor Christopher Owen, from St George’s, said: “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.

“Potential benefits associated with increased sleep in childhood may have implications for health in adulthood,” he added.

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