Children who don't get enough sleep at night are at higher risk for developing Type 2 diabetes, according to a new study published Tuesday by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Researchers observed self-reported sleep times, then took body measurements and blood samples in over 4,500 children aged 9 and 10 in Britain. Children who slept on average one hour longer per night than others in the study had a lower body mass index, lower insulin resistance, and lower fasting glucose than those who who slept an hour less.
While the study did not follow the participants long enough to see if they actually developed diabetes, the markers that are considered type 2 diabetes risk factors in adults were there.
The researchers suggest that increasing sleep duration by even half an hour could be associated with a lower body mass index and a reduction in insulin resistance.
The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommend 11 to 14 hours of sleep a night for children ages one to two and 10 to 13 hours of sleep for ages three through five. In school-aged children, the groups recommend nine to 12 hours of sleep a night for children up to 12 and eight to ten hours of sleep for teenagers.
Dr. Edith Bracho-Sanchez, a pediatric specialist, told ABC News that she often tells her patients that sleep is just as important for health as eating healthy or getting enough exercise.
Inadequate sleep for children is linked to lower academic performance, irritability and behavior problems, difficulty concentrating, and now even an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, according to Bracho-Sanchez.
Bracho-Sanchez adds that her number one tip for parents looking to increase the amount of sleep their child gets each night is to remove all electronics from the child's bedroom before they go to sleep, especially their phone.