Adolescents who sleep less than eight hours at night could have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, research suggests.
This is because sleep deprivation is associated with the development of abdominal fat, which can cause insulin resistance, according to scientists at the Laboratory of Investigation on Metabolism and Diabetes at the University of Campinas in Sao Paolo, Brazil.
The researchers aimed to investigate the association between sleep duration and decreased insulin sensitivity in adolescents. To do this, they used the hyperglycemic clamp technique – an insulin sensitivity test.
Data was collected from 615 youngsters between 2011 and 2014, ages 10 to 19. The researchers then measured height, weight, blood pressure and other metrics.
The participants self-monitored their nightly sleep patterns. A subsample of 81 adolescents underwent the hyperglycemic clamp technique.
The adolescents reported sleeping an average of 7.9 hours per night. 257 (42 per cent of participants) slept less than eight hours per night and tended to be older adolescents, have higher body weight relative to their height and a larger waist and neck circumference, compared to those who slept for more than eight hours.
Those with sleep deprivation were also less sensitive to insulin, and BMI and central distribution fat were higher in all categories of adiposity within the sleep deprivation group.
Senior author Dr. Bruno Geloneze said: “In our study we can demonstrate an increase in insulin resistance independently of the presence of obesity suggesting an intrinsic mechanism connecting sleep deprivation and metabolic derangement.”
“The findings are consistent with existing epidemiologic studies examining associations between sleep duration and obesity in children and young adults,” added Eve Van Cauter of the Sleep, Metabolism and Health Centre at the University of Chicago.
“Obesity is the major cause of insulin resistance. Insulin resistance could also result from an activation of stress-responsive pathways which tend to antagonize the action of insulin,” said Van Cauter.
The study was published in JAMA Pediatrics.

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