Young diabetics have many personal struggles — and to make matters worse, they may also have trouble sleeping, which could make it harder to control blood sugar levels and compromise academic performance.
In a new study in the January issue of the journal Sleep, researchers tracked the sleep habits of 50 Type 1 diabetics who were between 10 and 16 years old. Their results revealed that compared to kids without diabetes, those with the disease spent more time in a lighter stage of sleep. In addition, nearly one-third of the diabetic youths had sleep apnea, which is associated with Type 2 diabetes (also known as adult-onset diabetes).
What’s more, sleep problems can lead to lower grades, poorer performance on state standardized tests, poor quality of life and abnormalities in daytime behavior.
In an interview with TheCheckup, Michelle Perfect, PhD, the principal investigator in the study, said young diabetics may also suffer in academic settings because they often miss classtime to check glucose levels, leading to more absences than their peers, and that glucose irregularities can even contribute to difficulties with concentration, memory, and study skills.
“The most important thing is that doctors (endocrinologists) start asking families about the child’s sleep habits,” she said, “particularly since we found that not only glucose but also diabetes quality of life were associated with sleep disturbances.”
“On the upside,” Perfect added, “sleep is a potentially modifiable health behavior, so these kids could be helped by a qualified professional to get a better night’s sleep.”