Youth with diabetes have more sleep problems, worse glucose control

Youth with type 1 diabetes experience more sleep problems that result in worse blood glucose management and daytime functioning, according to a study published in the January 2012 issue of the journal Sleep.

Researchers from the University of Arizona and Harvard Medical School teamed up to study participants age 10 through 16 years with type 1 diabetes, along with control subjects from a sleep apnea study matched for sex, age and BMI.

Compared to control subjects, diabetic youth in the study spent more time in N2 sleep, the second stage of non-REM sleep. They spent significantly less time in N3 sleep, also called stage 3 or slow-wave sleep. This third stage of non-REM sleep allows the brain to become less responsive to external stimuli. It is considered the deepest sleep and the hardest stage from which to wake up.

Those diabetic participants who spent less time in slow-wave sleep had higher glucose levels than control subjects as a result.

In addition, the participants with diabetes who reported sleepiness and poor sleep habits had behavioral difficulties, reduced quality of life, lower grades, depressed mood, sleep-wake behavior problems, and lower state standardized math scores.

The study authors recommend that clinicians routinely assess sleep as part of diabetes care for young people with type 1 diabetes.

Glucose control
People with type 1 diabetes must check their blood glucose levels several times throughout the day using a blood glucose meter.

To get their blood sugar within target levels, they may take insulin, eat, or change their activities, according to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

It's not always easy to maintain blood glucose levels within the target range set by a clinician. Activities outside the normal routine, physical changes during growth, and eating habits can make blood glucose management difficult.

Source: Sleep, Harvard University, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation

photo by John Nyboer

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