You know your child's diet can affect his or her odds of developing type 2 diabetes down the line. But did you know how much he or she sleeps could as well?

By Zara Husaini Hanawalt
August 17, 2017
Sleeping girl
Credit: Africa Studio/Shutterstock

It's no secret that getting enough sleep is essential to maintaining good health—but this news might surprise you. A new study finds a link between too little sleep among children and increased type 2 diabetes risk.

Researchers from St. George's University of London studied over 4,000 children to come to this finding, which appears in Pediatrics. The team observed a group of ten-year-olds from varying ethnic backgrounds and asked their parents to report their sleeping habits. The children slept an average of 10 hours a night, and 95 percent of the children observed slept between 8 and 12 hours a night.

After looking at the data, researchers discovered that the children who got less sleep were more likely have higher body mass indexes, insulin resistance, and glucose readings—all of which are risk factors for type 2 diabetes. Conversely, the children who got more sleep tended to weigh less and have lower insulin resistance.

The researchers are unsure of why this link might exist, but one theory points to the relationship between sleep and appeitite—not getting enough shut eye may mess with appetite regulation, which could, in turn, create unhealthy habits that can lead to type 2 diabetes.

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The good news? This represents a relatively easy, affordable way for parents to help their children bring down their diabetes risk, and if your kids are clinically overweight, it may be worth moving their bedtime a little earlier. It's worth exploring with doctor if you're concerned that your child isn't sleeping enough—or if your family is predisposed to type 2 diabetes.