Teens' Lack of Sleep May Boost Diabetes Risk and Obesity


  •  1 in 3 children are considered overweight or obese, topping issues like smoking and substance abuse as the number one pediatric health concern today in the United States. 18% of children aged 6–11 years and 21% of adolescents aged 12–19 in the United States are Obese.
  • Slow-wave sleep (SWS) is an important stage of sleep that is involved in memory consolidation and recovery after sleep deprivation and is also associated with reduced cortisol and inflammation.
  • Loss of SWS between childhood and adolescence was significantly associated with insulin resistance, and this loss was marginally associated with increased belly fat and impaired attention.
  • Boys who experience a greater decline in slow-wave sleep as adolescents have a significantly higher chance of developing insulin resistance.

A recent study from Penn State University revealed that lack of sleep or poor night’s sleep in teens leads to insulin resistance and obesity; how much slow-wave sleep a teenage boy gets may predict whether he is at risk for insulin resistance and other health issues - Stage N3 or Delta is called “slow wave sleep” (SWS), is a sleep stage characterized by deep sleep where the brain recovers or  restores itself. As stated by Dr. Gaines, a doctoral candidate in neuroscience, College of Medicine, "On a night following sleep deprivation, we'll have significantly more slow-wave sleep to compensate for the loss," and, "We also know that we lose slow-wave sleep most rapidly during early adolescence. Given the restorative role of slow-wave sleep, we weren't surprised to find that metabolic and cognitive processes were affected during this developmental period."

Screenshot 37

 Gaines analyzed results collected through the Penn State Child Cohort in order to study long-term effects of SWS loss from childhood to adolescence. The cohort included 700 children from the general central Pennsylvania population, ages 5 to 12. Eight years later, 421 participants were followed up during adolescence -- 53.9 percent were male.

Participants were sleep monitored for nine hours. At the follow-up appointment, participants' body fat and insulin resistance were measured, and they also underwent neurocognitive testing.

Finally, the closed relationship between obesity, diabetes and poor and interrupted night’s sleep has been established

Gaines found that in boys, a greater loss of SWS between childhood and adolescence was significantly associated with insulin resistance, and this loss was marginally associated with increased belly fat and impaired attention. Gaines said, “The best thing we can do for ourselves today is keeping a consistent sleep schedule, so as not to deprive ourselves of any more slow-wave sleep than we're already naturally losing with age."

Sleep has been one of the overlooked factors in the childhood obesity epidemic and this study provides hard scientific evidence of the relationship between these two factors.

 Of all the five stages of sleep, Stage 3 is the most influential and determinant in a healthy and adequate sexual quality of life. Stage N3 is called “slow wave sleep” (SWS) and is characterized by the presence of slow brain waves called “delta waves” interspersed with smaller, faster waves. Blood pressure falls, breathing slows, and temperature drops even lower, with the body becoming immobile. Sleep is deeper, with no eye movement and decreased muscle activity, although muscles retain their ability to function. It is most difficult to be awakened during.  It is in this Stage where the brain secrets and  rebuilds itself of  the most important hormones like Leptin [an appetite suppressing hormone] growth hormone, Testosterone, Dopamine, and Gonadotropin. The levels of Ghrelin( an appetite stimulating ) increases in subjects who are sleep deprived, which promotes appetite.”  Unfortunately, this N3 stage is decreased or absent in teens with snoring, associated sleep apnea or sleep deprivation and explains how sleep problems lead to obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular problems.

 According to the American Heart Association, 1 in 3 children are considered overweight or obese, topping issues like smoking and substance abuse as the number one pediatric health concern today in the United States.  Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years. The percentage of obese children aged 6–11 years in the United States is nearly 18%.  Similarly, the percentage of obese adolescents aged 12–19 years is 21%.


In 2012, more than one-third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese. Overweight is defined as having excess body weight for a particular height from fat, muscle, bone, water, or a combination of these factors. Obesity is defined as having excess body fat.

Screenshot 5Overweight and obesity are the results of “caloric imbalance”—too few calories expended for a number of calories consumed—and are affected by various genetic, behavioral, and environmental factors.

Childhood obesity has both immediate and long-term effects on health and well-being.

Immediate health effects:

    Obese youth is more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular diseases, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure. In a population-based sample of 5- to 17-year-olds, 70% of obese youth had, at least, one risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

    Obese adolescents are more likely to have pre-diabetes, a condition in which blood glucose levels indicate a high risk for development of diabetes.

    Children and adolescents who are obese are at greater risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem.

Long-term health effects:

    Children and adolescents who are obese are likely to be obese as adults and are therefore more at risk for adult health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, several types of cancer, and osteoarthritis. One study showed that children who became obese as early as age 2 were more likely to be obese as adults.

    Overweight and obesity are associated with increased risk for many types of cancer, including cancer of the breast, colon, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, pancreas, gall bladder, thyroid, ovary, cervix, and prostate, as well as multiple myeloma and Hodgkin’s lymphoma.


    Insomnia—a known risk factor for weight gain—has become an epidemic in teens. Weight gain has been linked to chronic poor sleep. A growing number of children and teens report sleep issues, and screen-time at night may be to blame. Artificial light from the screen suppresses melatonin, and both visual and psychological stimulation induce fight-or-flight reactions, keeping the brain alert. Screen-time at night may contribute to obesity by inducing chronic sleep deprivation and stress reactions, conditions that lead to weight gain over time via insulin resistance. Kids may sneak electronic devices into bed, text after lights out, play games or surf the internet—both as part of a bedtime routine as well as during periodic awakenings throughout the night. (Parents are frequently unaware of this!) Additionally, daily fatigue from disturbed sleep dampens the innate drive to be physically active, creating a vicious cycle. 

Another physiological explanation was given by Dr. Van Cauter's research at the University of Chicago who shows that “people who don't sleep adequately have physiologic abnormalities that may increase appetite and calorie intake, the level of Leptin [an appetite suppressing hormone] falls in subjects who are sleep deprived, which promotes appetite. The levels of Ghrelin( an appetite stimulating ) increases in subjects who are sleep deprived, which promotes appetite.”  It suggests that at least multiples factors in obesity can be sleep deprivation. Poor sleep and sleep deprivation may increase appetite. Because the psychological manifestations of fatigue, sleep and hunger are similar, as adults. This study explains the voracious appetite and the binging experienced by individuals who are sleep deprived especially. So in essence, Obesity and Sleep Apnea are closely linked and it explains the voracious appetite and the binging behavior of overweight individuals who desperately try to lose weight with poor results. Diagnosing and treating the sleep apnea is beneficial for the proper and ideal body weight.


Numerous studies show that sleep deprivation and sleep apnea may increase the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes. Some of these studies conclude the following:

•          Several epidemiological studies report a correlation between short sleep duration and higher mean BMI and/or obesity.

•          Obstructive sleep apnea is a common disorder whose prevalence is linked to an epidemic of obesity

•          Studies of young, healthy males show that sleep deprivation over as few as two nights results in decreased glucose tolerance and increased appetite for carbohydrate-rich foods.2,3 The observed increase in hunger, if translated into actual ingestion of the desired foods, would correlate to an excess of 350-500 kcal/day.

•          Longer term studies suggest that chronic sleep deprivation may result in reduced insulin sensitivity.

•          Population studies indicate that chronic short sleep duration is correlated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes or impaired glucose tolerance, after adjusting for potential confounding effects including age, sex, BMI, and waist circumference.

Sleep Apnea Facts & Figures

·         20% of the adult population is estimated to suffer from mild-to-severe obstructive sleep apnea, which is the most prevalent form of sleep-related  breathing disorder

·         As the incidence of obesity increases, the number of patients suffering from sleep apnea is expected to increase.

·         More than 50% of patients with type 2 diabetes have sleep apnea.

·         Up to 90% of patients with sleep apnea remain undiagnosed. Patients with untreated sleep apnea are at increased risk of having a traffic accident.

In summary, sleep Apnea, sleep deprivation, insulin resistance  and Obesity in teens are closely linked and it explains the voracious appetite and the binging behavior along with an increased risk for diabetes of teens who desperately try to lose weight with poor results. At the same times it opens the discussion that good sleeping habits should be part of a diet regimen in teens; furthermore, teens who are overweight or obese and have sleeping problems should consult a board certified sleep medicine physician whom will give you the proper diagnosis and treatment in conjunction with the appropriate sleep studies at an accredited facility by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, AASM

Obesity, Obstructive Sleep Apnea, insomnia and other sleep disorders can be treated and diagnosed in a facility properly accredited by the AASM. An overnight sleep study is the method most common and efficient for the evaluation of these conditions.  If you or someone close to you has a  sleep disorders and obesity, take it seriously, talk to your doctor or call our Sleeping center, which is accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, AASM, to be able to assist you


VIDA SLEEP CENTER & SPA   543  45th St.  Union City N.J.

TEL. 201-766-6471



Get Started

Don't spend any more days living in pain. Click here to begin your treatment..
Make an Appoinment



We are constantly advancing our knowledge in the newest technologies and therapies in Interventional Pain Management necessary to treat the most challenging pain conditions.

We offer state of the art Physical Therapy and Massage Therapy. Our goal is to help you relieve pain, shorten recovery time, and regain full functionality. If you are looking for a physical therapist, our staff will customize a recovery program that is tailored to your need.

At our VIDA Massage & Spa, our purpose is  to help you achieve peace, relaxation and renewal  of both your mind and body.