Poor Sleep for Young Diabetics Impairs Blood Sugar Control

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Adolescents with type 1 diabetes may have difficulty getting a full night of sleep, which can greatly impact their performance in school and, worse, their blood sugar control, researchers at the University of Arizona have found.

Poor Sleep for Young Diabetics Impairs Blood Sugar Control

Adolescents with type 1 diabetes may have difficulty getting a full night of sleep, which can greatly impact their performance in school and, worse, their blood sugar control, researchers at the University of Arizona have found.

“Despite adhering to recommendations for good diabetic health, many youth with type 1 diabetes have difficulty maintaining control of their blood sugar….due to abnormalities in sleep, such as daytime sleepiness, lighter sleep, and sleep apnea,” Michelle Perfect, PhD, an assistant professor in the department of disability and psychoeducational studies at the University of Arizona and the principal investigator of the study, said in a press release.

Perfect and her fellow researchers followed the sleeping habits of 50 type 1 diabetes patients aged 10 to 16. They collected data on the participants’ sleep patterns through questionnaires, a home-based sleep study, and actigraphy, or monitoring of motor activity with a small device. The researchers also recorded blood sugar levels with continuous glucose monitors and hemoglobin A1C testing.

The researchers compared their results to a control group and found that the diabetic adolescents spent more time in light sleep than their non-diabetic peers. In addition, longer periods of light sleep were found to be correlated with poorer performance in school and higher blood sugar levels.

The researchers also found that almost one-third of the diabetes patients in the study suffered from sleep apnea, a condition that is typically associated with type 2 diabetes. The participants most likely to have sleep apnea had significantly higher blood sugar levels, the same pattern as seen in type 2 diabetics with the condition.

While sobering, these findings do present the possibility of improving the condition of young diabetes patients by helping them with their sleep problems. “On the upside,” Perfect said, “sleep is a potentially modifiable health behavior, so these kids could be helped by a qualified professional to get a better night’s sleep.”

The study appears in the January issue of the journal SLEEP.

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