Go to Bed! It’s Good for Your Blood

Insulin resistance and sleep deprivation in teens linked

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) If your teenager isn't getting enough sleep, it means more than a grumpy kid in the morning. It might also mean they are raising their risk of developing diabetes.

A recent study has found that getting too little sleep is linked to higher insulin resistance in teens.

"Teens need 9 hours of sleep nightly."

The study, led by Karen Matthews, PhD, from the University of Pittsburgh Department of Psychiatry, assessed a group of teens' amount of sleep and insulin resistance levels for a week.

A total of 245 healthy high school students kept a sleep log and wore a wrist "actigraph," a device that keeps track of a person's amount of activity to estimate their amount of sleep.

The participants also had their blood drawn after fasting (not eating) so that their level of insulin resistance could be measured.

Insulin resistance means the body is not using insulin to process and control the amount of sugar in the person's body as well as it should.

This causes the person's fat levels and blood sugars to increase. Continuously high insulin resistance can lead a person to develop diabetes.

The actigraph data revealed that the teens were getting an average of 6.4 hours of sleep each night during the week, though their sleep time was much greater on the weekends than on weekdays.

The researchers found that the teens' insulin resistance was higher in those who got the least amount of sleep. This was true regardless of the students' age, race/ethnicity, gender, waist circumference and weight, as measured through their body mass index (BMI).

The authors therefore concluded teenagers are more likely to decrease their risk of metabolic syndrome and diabetes by ensuring they get a sufficient amount of sleep each night.

"We found that if teens that normally get six hours of sleep per night get one extra hour of sleep, they would improve insulin resistance by 9 percent," said Dr. Matthews in a release about the study.

Adolescents need at least nine hours of sleep nightly according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

According to William Kohler, MD, the director of the Florida Sleep Institute in Spring Hill, Florida, it's important that people realize they also may not always be getting as much sleep as they think.

He pointed out that even though the actigraphs in this study showed the teens were getting an average of 6.4 hours a night, their sleep diaries showed an average of 7.4 hours.

"There was a definite difference between what people think they are sleeping and what they actually are in this particular study," he said. 

Dr. Kohler also said the results of the story coincide with similar findings in studies done with adults.

"Previous studies have shown that short sleep duration is associated with insulin resistance in adults," he said. "This article on sleep duration and insulin resistance is another important one showing the abnormal consequences in health for either sleep quality decrease or sleep quantity decrease."

The study was published in the October issue of the journal Sleep. It was funded by the National Institutes of Health, and the authors declared no conflicts of interest.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 4, 2012
Last Updated:
October 12, 2012