If You Let Your Kids Do This, Their Risk of Type 2 Diabetes Might Go Up

Every kid begs for it, but if you give in on a regular basis, you may be putting your child's health in danger. We tell you how to help your child avoid this serious disease.

Little girl cryingPhoto: Shutterstock / Alexander Motrenko
Photo: Shutterstock / Alexander Motrenko

Most parents are willing to shift bedtimes now and then, especially when traveling with kids, but what happens when too little sleep becomes the norm? A recent study in the journal Pediatrics suggests it could increase their risk of Type 2 diabetes.

What Did Researchers Find?

The study included kids between the ages of 9 and 10. Researchers compared how much sleep they typically get each night with several tests that indicate diabetes risk. While most kids slept between 8 and 12 hours per night, those who averaged the least amount of sleep had a higher risk of Type 2 diabetes. Even though researchers discovered this association, it doesn’t necessarily mean that too little sleep is causing an increased risk.

Should You Be Concerned?

While more studies are needed to determine what’s actually causing the link between sleep and diabetes risk, this research is yet another good reason to tuck your kids into bed early. Getting enough sleep helps them think clearly, stay focused, be creative and follow directions. It also supports growth and development, brain function and a healthy immune system.

How Much Sleep Is Enough?

According to the National Sleep Foundation, the amount of sleep kids need varies even within the same age group. To be fully rested, most toddlers need 11 to 14 hours, preschoolers need 10 to 13 hours, school-aged kids need 9 to 11 hours and teens need 8 to 10 hours. Considering that adults average less than seven hours of sleep at night, the amount kids need might seem excessive, but their growing bodies need the extra rest.

Secrets for Restful Nights:

  • Stick to a schedule. Kids should have the same bedtime and waking time every day—even on weekends.
  • Get into a routine. Repeating the same bedtime rituals helps kids wind down and get ready for sleep. A routine can be as simple as putting on pj’s, brushing teeth and reading a book before lights out.
  • Skip screen time before bed. Bright lights and loud sounds from TVs, tablets and video games are too stimulating. Power off at least an hour before bedtime, and keep cell phones out of the bedroom, too.
  • Avoid caffeine. Most kids aren’t sipping on lattes, but there’s also caffeine in other foods, like soda, energy water and chocolate. Make sure kids steer clear of these foods from late afternoon on.
  • Keep nighttime activities quiet and relaxing. This might seem like a no-brainer, but tag-team wrestling isn’t a good idea just before it’s time to go to bed. Save the rough and tumble play for earlier in the day, even if that means waiting until the weekend.
  • Don’t forget Blankie. Security blankets and favorite stuffed animals help kids feel safe and calm when they’re in their bedroom without Mom or Dad. Older kids transition away from carrying one during the day, but might still want their wooby (or binky, or lambie, or moo moo) at night.
  • Let the dog sleep in their room. Studies suggest that one of the health benefits of having a dog is getting better sleep. Just make sure Fido is sleeping on the floor, not in their bed, which can decrease sleep quality.

Some of the best childhood memories are created on those occasional late nights, whether it’s at a sleepover, birthday party or trying to stay awake long enough to see Santa on Christmas Eve. Let them have those moments, but make a restful night’s sleep a priority most of the time. Your child’s health may depend on it.

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Peggy Woodward, RDN
Peggy is a Senior Food Editor for Taste of Home. In addition to curating recipes, she writes articles, develops recipes and is our in-house nutrition expert. She studied dietetics at the University of Illinois and completed post-graduate studies at the Medical University of South Carolina to become a registered dietitian nutritionist. Peggy has more than 20 years of experience in the industry. She’s a mom, a foodie and enjoys being active in her rural Wisconsin community.