Getting the kids to bed on time can feel like a losing battle, but, according to research associating inadequate sleep with an increase in risk markers of type 2 diabetes, parents should keep fighting the good fight. Published in Pediatrics, the study looked at data from 4,525 multiethnic UK children, aged nine to ten. Participants self-reported their actual bedtimes and waking times, and researchers tested for several type 2 diabetes risk markers, including HbA1C and fasting glucose, insulin, and lipid levels. They also measured participants’ height, weight, blood pressure, and body fat. After adjusting for factors including gender, age, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status, researchers found:
The average sleep time was 10.5 hours, and longer sleep was associated with a lower likelihood of obesity and lower type 2 diabetes risk markers.
Specifically, one additional hour of sleep was associated with a 0.19 reduction in BMI, a 0.03 kg/m5 reduction in fat mass index, a 2.9% lower insulin resistance assessment score, and a 0.24% lower fasting glucose level.
Sleep duration was not associated with HbA1C, blood pressure, or lipid levels.
This study adds to a growing body of observational evidence indicating a relationship between sleep and type 2 diabetes risk, and suggests that the metabolic harms of too little sleep may begin in childhood. It also highlights something that parents already know: children need a certain amount of sleep to stay happy and healthy. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the amount of sleep children need every day changes as they age. They recommend daily sleep times of 12 to 16 hours for 4- to 12-month-olds, 11 to 14 hours for 1- to 2-year-olds, 10 to 13 hours for 3- to 5-year-olds, 9 to 12 hours for 6- to 12-year-olds, and 8 to 10 hours for 13- to 18-year-olds. If your child is having trouble getting their Zs, there are things you can do to help, such as establishing a consistent bedtime, ensuring they get enough exercise, and limiting screen time before bed. Your child’s pediatrician can also be a great resource for sleep-promoting ideas.