Less Sleep Tied to Diabetes Risk in Children

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The experts therefore suggested that getting more sleep in childhood may stave off or lower the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and obesity later in life.

Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels.

Children who slept longer had lower body weight and lower levels of fat mass. Sleep duration was also inversely related to insulin, insulin resistance and blood glucose.

George's, University of London and his team examined the sleeping habits of 4,525 children aged nine or 10 in the United Kingdom and looked into the risk factors for the health condition.

Researcher Alicja R. Rudnicka explained: "This confirms the association between short sleep duration and body fatness". 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.

Commenting on the findings, Dr Nicole Glaser alongside DR Dennis Styne, who both work for University of California Davis, said the research "brings us a step closer to understanding the relationship between sleep, obesity, and the metabolic syndrome". Although the importance of a good night's sleep should not be undermined for any one, the American Sleep Association emphasizes the significance of proper sleep in kids.

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Insufficient sleep can affect levels of hormones that control appetite, making kids hungrier and increasing cravings for sweet and salty snacks, said James Gangwisch, a psychiatry researcher at Columbia University in NY who wasn't involved in the study.

Beyond making sure kids have regular bedtime, parents should also focus on what's known as sleep hygiene, said Femke Rutters of the VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam.

The NHS Choices recommended sleep duration for a 10 year old is 10 hours and so a child getting just one hour less has a higher risk, say researchers.

Owen's team did dig into some other potential explanations for the findings: Were physically active kids prone to sleeping more, for instance? Nor did the family's socioeconomic situation - which could affect kids' lifestyle habits and health.

"These findings suggest increasing sleep duration could offer a simple, cost-effective approach to reducing levels of body fat and type 2 diabetes risk early in life", senior study author Christopher Owen of St. George's, University of London, said by email.

"Increasing sleep is a very simple, low-priced intervention", he said.