A small new study identifies something we do every day that could influence diabetes risk among teenagers: Sleep.
New research published in the journal SLEEP shows a link between less shut-eye and higher insulin resistance, a major risk factor for diabetes.
"We found that if teens that normally get six hours of sleep per night get one extra hour of sleep, they would improve insulin resistance by 9 percent," study researcher Karen Matthews, Ph.D., of the University of Pittsburgh Department of Psychiatry, said in a statement.
According to the the National Sleep Foundation, teens need lots of sleep -- about nine-and-a-quarter hours per night, though some can do well on eight-and-a-half. However, research has shown that teens often don't achieve this recommended amount (the National Sleep Foundation reported that for school nights, only about 15 percent of teens said they get at least eight-and-a-half-hours of sleep).
The new study included 245 healthy teenagers of white and African-American race. Researchers drew blood from the teens at the start of the study, and had them keep a sleep log and wear an actigraph on their wrist for one week.
According to the logs, the teens got nearly seven-and-a-half hours of sleep each night, on average; according to the actigraphs, they got nearly six-and-a-half hours of sleep each night, on average, researchers found.
The researchers found a relationship between sleep and insulin resistance, with the teens getting the least sleep in the study having higher insulin resistance than those who got more sleep in the study. This relationship held true even after taking into account factors like body mass index, race, age, waist circumference and gender.
Therefore, "interventions to extend sleep duration may reduce diabetes risk in youth," the researchers wrote in the study.
Insulin resistance can lead to diabetes because the body needs to produce insulin to control blood sugar -- but if there is too much sugar in the blood, then the body needs to produce even more insulin to control the sugar, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
Eventually, the pancreas fails to keep up with the body's need for insulin. Excess glucose builds up in the bloodstream, setting the stage for diabetes. Many people with insulin resistance have high levels of both glucose and insulin circulating in their blood at the same time.
For other factors that could influence risk of diabetes, click through the slideshow:
We’re basically your best friend… with better taste. Learn more