Most teens sleep less than what is recommended. Sleep deficits can lead to learning difficulties, irritability, skin problems, weight gain and, as discovered in a new study, increase an individual’s resistance to insulin.
Researchers now believe that increasing the amount of sleep during teenage years could reduce a teen’s insulin resistance and prevent the future onset of diabetes.
“High levels of insulin resistance can lead to the development of diabetes,” said lead author Karen Matthews, Ph.D., of the University of Pittsburgh Department of Psychiatry. “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.”
The study, appearing in the October issue of the journal SLEEP, tracked the sleep duration and insulin resistance levels of 245 healthy high school students.
Participants provided a fasting blood draw, and they kept a sleep log and wore a wrist actigraph for one week during the school year. An actigraph is a small device worn as a wristwatch-like package to measure rest/activity patterns.
For the teens, sleep duration based on actigraphy averaged 6.4 hours over the week, with school days significantly lower than weekends.
Results show that higher insulin resistance is associated with shorter sleep duration independent of race, age, gender, waist circumference, and body mass index.
According to Matthews, the study is the only one in healthy adolescents that shows a relationship between shorter sleep and insulin resistance that is independent of obesity.
In summary, researchers believe interventions to promote metabolic health in adolescence should include efforts to extend nightly sleep duration. Experts suggest that most teens need a little more than nine hours of sleep each night.