In an interesting study published in the journal Pediatrics, researchers in the UK looked at 4,525 children aged 9-10 of multi-ethnic descent, living in England, and they found that all else being equal – adjusting for school, behaviour, medication use, socio-economic and social factors, etc (which is clearly a very difficult thing to do and something that always leaves a lot of room for error in the study’s conclusions) – those kids who sleep one or so hours less than the recommended 10 hours for this age group tend to have a higher risk factor for Type 2 diabetes (T2D) than kids who sleep 10 or more hours a night (the mean number of hours slept in this study was 10.5 – lucky parents and grandparents, those who have kids above the mean).
This is mostly because kids who sleep less also carry more weight, a major known risk factor for T2D.
The kids with less sleep also showed more insulin resistance and a couple of other metabolic changes linked to a higher risk of T2D.
It’s important to point out three things, however.
One is that these kids did not yet have T2D: They were just more likely to end up with it eventually.
And second, it’s impossible in this kind of study to determine the cart and the horse – perhaps kids who are at higher risk of T2D for reasons that are not yet clear also at consequent higher risk of not being able to sleep as long.
Also, equally important I’d say, although these guys claim that an extra half-hour of sleep would probably reverses this higher risk, they also don’t advance any great remedy for what is an altogether common problem: How to get a kid who doesn’t sleep as much as you’d like to sleep more.
There’s a Nobel prize around for the person who comes up with a sure-fire solution, never mind the great thanks that will come forward from the millions of parents and grandparents grappling with that situation.