Lack of sleep can cause teen diabetes

The stereotype of lazy, lethargic teenagers doesn't quite reflect today's youth anymore.

During a time when most teens are overbooked with rigorous academic commitments, competitive sports, social lives and family obligations, the pressure for perfection is heavier than it's ever been.

But some health experts are worried that sacrificing sleep for demanding schedules puts teens at risk for dangerous health conditions like diabetes.

Sleep deprivation leads to fat storage

While it's recommended that teens get about 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep each night, most young people aren't getting nearly that much. To compensate, they may reach for empty calories in the form of carbohydrates, caffeine and sugar.

A recent study found that lack of sleep can reduce insulin sensitivity, which is the body's way of managing blood sugar. The lower the insulin sensitivity, the higher the likelihood of metabolic problems like type 2 diabetes and weight gain.

"We have a growing body of literature that ties weight gain to our 24/7 society and inadequate sleep," said sleep expert Helene Emsellem, medical director of the Center for Sleep & Wake Disorders in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

Sleep improves academic performance

Adequate sleep not only helps ward off health problems, but it can also help teens improve academic performance, says Emsellem.

"We are actually learning during sleep," she said. In some sleep stages, the brain takes information, "laying it down into the memories that are going to allow us to retrieve the information" later on.

Fueling up on sugary drinks or caffeine to stay awake during class is a recipe not only for diabetes, but for the afternoon crash - when the body comes down off the high.

Emsellem says that maintaining a regular sleep and study schedule is crucial for teens. She also recommends turning off electronics about an hour before bed and reducing caffeine intake in order to promote better sleep patterns.

Source: NPR
Image courtesy of imagerymajestic/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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