Researchers believe sleep problems may compromise the physical and mental health of Type 1 diabetics.
A new study suggests sleep disorders among young diabetics can contribute to misbehavior, worse control of their blood sugar and poor school performance.
“Despite adhering to recommendations for good diabetic health, many youth with Type 1 diabetes have difficulty maintaining control of their blood sugars,” said Michelle Perfect, Ph.D., the principal investigator in the study.
“We found that it could be due to abnormalities in sleep, such as daytime sleepiness, lighter sleep and sleep apnea. All of these make it more difficult to have good blood sugar control.”
Researchers followed the sleep health of 50 Type 1 diabetics, ages 10 to 16, and then compared the findings to a control group.
The investigators discovered the young diabetics spent more time in a lighter stage of sleep than youth without diabetes – this, in turn, was related to compromised school performance and higher blood sugar levels.
The study appears in the January issue of the journal Sleep.
“Sleep problems were associated with lower grades, poorer performance on state standardized tests, poor quality of life and abnormalities in daytime behavior,” Perfect said.
“On the upside, sleep is a potentially modifiable health behavior, so these kids could be helped by a qualified professional to get a better night’s sleep.”
Perfect and colleagues also found that nearly one-third of the youths in their study had sleep apnea, regardless of weight or body mass index (BMI). The finding is important as sleep apnea is associated with Type 2 diabetes, often referred to as adult-onset diabetes.
Type 2 diabetics are often overweight or obese, a condition that contributes to sleep apnea.
In the current study, the young participants with sleep apnea showed significantly higher blood sugar levels – the same pattern linked to adults.
“Sleep apnea and its impact may not be confined to older people with diabetes, we don’t know,” she said. “It’s something that needs to be looked at again.”