Playing Video Games, Lack Of Sleep Leads To Diabetes

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

Plopping down in front of your favorite video game can be a great way to blow off some steam at the end of the day. However, just like any vice, moderation and wisdom should be applied by the spadeful.

Traditional gaming (save the new trend of “Active gaming,” ) involved sitting relatively still in front of a screen for several minutes, if not several hours. While on the couch, gamers tend to get hungry and thirsty and the snacks of choice are rarely Quinoa salads and Kale smoothies. As such, it´s commonly understood that spending too much time sitting in front of the TV, gaming or otherwise, can be damaging to one´s health.

Today, a study from the University of Pittsburgh adds solid, scientific proof to what we´ve already embraced as common knowledge: Staying up late and playing video games can be harmful to teenagers, ultimately leading to diabetes. For all the reasons listed above– sitting still, eating bad foods, staying up too late– Karen Matthews, University of Pittsburgh psychiatry professor and lead author of the new study says spending too much time with video games could lower resistance to insulin, thereby leading to the potentially deadly disease.

According to the study, the most important aspect is getting the proper amount of sleep.

“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 per cent,” said Karen Matthews, lead author and professor at University of Pittsburgh.

To conduct this study, Matthews and colleagues analyzed the sleeping patterns and insulin resistance levels of 245 healthy teens. Their data showed that the less these teens slept, the higher their resistance to insulin rose. This reaction was common among all teens, despite age, gender, race or even body type and BMI.

Though this study seems to attack gaming outright, the authors claim this is the first study of its kind to tie insulin resistance to a lack of sleep. The gaming element is more of a vehicle by which this lack of sleep is often delivered.

To monitor these teens, Matthews and team asked the participants to give a fasting blood sample, wear a device to measure any inactive periods (called an actigraph) and keep a sleep log.

According to the actigraph records, these teens, on average, slept 6.4 hours a night, sleeping less on school nights and more on the weekends.

While Matthews says the study confirms that the lack of sleep builds up a resistance to insulin, she was careful not to suggest that sleeping more brings down this tolerance.

Insulin is a hormone which helps the body make best use of glucose, or sugar. When someone becomes Insulin Resistant, their body continues to produce the hormone, but isn´t able to make proper use of it. Therefore, the muscle, fat and liver cells stop responding as they should to the insulin, which in turn causes the pancreas to work harder to push out more and more of the hormone. Left untreated, the body begins to demand more insulin than the pancreas can produce and sugar begins to build up in the blood stream. It is at this point where Type 2 Diabetes sets in.

Now, Matthews is suggesting that her colleagues and other health professionals begin to encourage teenagers to sleep longer throughout their week. According to previous research, healthy teenagers need at least 9 hours of sleep a night in order to stay that way. While so much sleep may cut into some serious gaming time, it´s definitely better than contracting Type 2 Diabetes.

The UPitt study was published in the journal Sleep.

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