(KNBC) - Frequent snoring by children can change a child's overall metabolism and could lead to health disorders, including diabetes according to a study by Children's Hospital Los Angeles.
Julia Del Rio, 13, was aware that she snored, but neither she nor her mom thought it was a big deal.
Claudia Del Rio says she thought her daughter's snoring was endearing.
"Especially when she was a baby, I used to listen to her snore and I thought that it was really cute," Del Rio said.
But researchers say frequent snoring can be a sign of a serious breathing disorder.
"When you have arousals from sleep it activates what we call the fight-or-flight reflex and that turns on your sympathetic nervous system," said Dr. Sally Davidson Ward, author of the study.
"Through that repetitive activation, we believe that impacts glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity."
And that can lead to weight gain, even diabetes.
"Your sleep is disrupted, that may change your metabolism so you can become more obese. It's definitely a vicious cycle that needs interruption," Ward explained. "Insulin is the hormone we use to put sugar in the cells so we can use it as a fuel. So if cells become insensitive to that, the blood sugar can rise, and you can develop diabetes."
Julia underwent tests at a sleep lab and doctors found that she had obstructive sleep apnea.
Her airway was being blocked, causing her to stop breathing throughout the night.
To treat her condition, doctors decided that Julia will need to get her tonsils removed.
Recent research also finds that lack of sleep can lead to behavioral and learning problems in children.
Dr. Ward said parents should pay attention to how their child is sleeping.
"Especially if it's loud, or more than 3 nights a week, they should discuss it with their pediatrician," she said.