According to a recent news article, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused an alarming increase in type 2 diabetes rates among children. This may be linked to children's disrupted sleep schedules and later bedtimes during the pandemic. Sleep has been determined to be a key factor in childhood obesity, which is the leading risk factor for type 2 diabetes.
A recent study published in Pediatrics found that young children between 2 and 6 years old who routinely stay up late (after 9 pm) tend to gain more body fat. These kids had bigger increases in waist size, BMI, weight-to height ratio than their peers who go to bed at or before 8:30 PM on weekdays.
In another study of elementary-age children, 71% of participants with a late bedtime had obesity. The condition is also linked with other behaviors such as watching more television or eating late dinner.
Children who don't sleep enough will eat more, and it's not just because they're tired or bored; studies show that children with chronic sleep deprivation tend to consume nearly twice as many calories per day than those who get the recommended amount of sleep.
Likewise, adolescents who have late bed and rise times tend to drink more caffeinated drinks and eat more fast food. These lifestyle choices may contribute to an increased risk of obesity.
It's important that kids maintain a healthy sleep schedule from an early age. Late bedtimes increase the risk of obesity and related health problems, and the effects can be long-lasting.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends 10 hours for kids aged 5–13 years old, 9 hours for teens ages 14–17 years old and 8 1/2 hours per day for adults 18+. But more than just tracking the hours of your child’s sleep, it is important to pay attention to signs of sleep deprivation. Watch out for signs such as hyperactivity, crankiness, memory or concentration problems, and tendency to consume more food especially late at night. If you see these signs, take steps to establish an early bedtime, and be consistent about bedtime routines every night.