Young diabetics who struggle to get a good night’s sleep are at greater risk as it worsens blood sugar control and leads to poorer performance and misbehaviour.
“Despite adhering to recommendations for good diabetic health, many youth with Type 1 diabetes have difficulty maintaining control of their blood sugars,” said principal study investigator Michelle Perfect of the Univeristy of Arizona.
“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,” she said.
The study tracked the sleep health of 50 Type 1 diabetics, aged 10-16 years. Perfect and her colleagues compared that data with a similar control group, without diabetics, the journal Sleep reports.
Type 1 diabetes results from destruction of insulin-producing cells. The lack of insulin causes frequent urination, increased thirst and hunger and weight loss, according to an Arizona statement.
They found that the young diabetics spent more time in a lighter stage of sleep than youth without diabetes, which was related to compromised school performance and higher blood sugar levels.
“Sleep problems were associated with lower grades, poorer performance on state standardized tests, poor quality of life and abnormalities in daytime behaviour,” Perfect said.
Perfect and colleagues also found that nearly a third of the youths in their study had sleep apnea, regardless of weight. Sleep apnea — abnormal pauses in breathing — is tied to Type 2 diabetes, often referred to as adult-onset diabetes.
These young participants with sleep apnea showed significantly higher blood sugar levels – the same pattern linked to adults.