Such interesting and important questions have been answered by a new London-based study. Professor Christopher G Owen from St George’s, University of London led this research attempting to discover the possible causes of diabetes. The researchers intended to study the association between sleep duration and the risk of type 2 diabetes in children. (1).
The study titled “Sleep Duration and the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes,” has been published in the prestigious journal Pediatrics.
A sample of 4525 children was selected. The study population was multi-ethnic and aged 9 to 10 years, living in the UK. Data was collected from children using a questionnaire, where they reported their usual time of going to bed and waking up on a school day. Fasting blood samples were drawn to determine the levels of serum lipids, insulin, plasma glucose, and HbA1c. Other measurements such as height, weight, bioimpedence, and blood pressure were taken. (2)
NHS choices, the official website of England’s National Health Services, recommends that a minimum of 10 hours of sleep is needed for children aged about 10 years. (1) The above study confirmed that sleep duration was linked to risk of type 2 diabetes. It showed that sleep duration has an inverse association with type 2 diabetes risk markers and obesity in childhood. (2)
The study found that the amount of sleep was also associated with the level of body fat in children. Researchers also concluded that increasing the mean weekday sleep duration by even 30mins (10.5 hours) was linked to 0.1 kg/m² lower body mass index and a 0.5% reduction in insulin resistance. (1)
No association was found between HbA1c levels, or cardiovascular risk and sleep duration. However, association with insulin as well as glucose remained significant despite adjusting for obesity markers. 
This suggests that childhood sleeping habits can have serious implications on health in adulthood. Thus, counseling children to have adequate sleeping hours can have potential health benefits.
Professor Christopher G Owen, who led the research at St George’s, University of London, 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.”
More intervention and large-scale studies are needed to understand the causality of the associations. Further research on these parameters can help us in identifying effective preventive measures for a disease that has become a pandemic.
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