Research Linking A Child’s Sleep With Obesity

September 21st, 2011  |  Published in Parenting News  |  1 Comment

In my artcle “Why The Fuss Over Sleep” I discuss research based on adults that link sleep deprivation with obesity. New studies have emerged that connects lack of sleep in children with childhood obesity. Many parents are surprised to learn how much sleep their children should be getting. Not only does lack of sleep affect mood and ability to learn, but has physical repercussions as well. For more information: “Sleep May Curb Obesity in Kids.


CHICAGO — Here’s another reason to get the kids to bed early: More sleep may lower their risk of becoming obese.

Researchers have found that every additional hour per night that a third-grader spends sleeping reduces the chances of being obese in sixth grade by 40 percent.

The less sleep they got, the more likely the children were to be obese in sixth grade, no matter what the weight in third grade, said the University of Michigan’s Dr. Julie Lumeng, who led the research.

If there was a magic number, it was nine hours, 45 minutes of sleep. Third-graders who slept more than that lowered the risk significantly.

The study gives parents one more reason to enforce bedtimes, restrict caffeine and yank the TV from the bedroom. The study appears in the November issue of the journal Pediatrics.

Lack of sleep plays havoc with two hormones that are the “yin and yang of appetite regulation,” said endocrinologist Eve Van Cauter of the University of Chicago, who was not involved in the study.

In tests by Van Cauter and others, sleep-deprived adults produced more ghrelin, a hormone that promotes hunger, and less leptin, a hormone that signals fullness.

Another explanation: Tired kids are less likely to exercise and more likely to sit on the couch and eat cookies, Lumeng said.

Dr. Stephen Sheldon, director of sleep medicine at Chicago’s Children’s Memorial Hospital, praised the study and called for more research. He said children’s sleep may be disturbed by breathing woes – some caused by being overweight, such as sleep apnea, and some caused by enlarged tonsils and adenoids.

“I’m not so sure we have enough information yet on cause and effect,” said Sheldon, who was not involved in the study.

Researchers used data from an existing federal study and focused on 785 children with complete information on sleep, and height and weight in the third grade and sixth grade. The children lived in 10 U.S. cities.

Good nights

Experts offer these ideas for promoting good sleep habits in children:

Wake time: The biological clock resets in the morning, so have a consistent wake-up time as well as a consistent bedtime.

Weekends: Avoid letting children sleep extremely late on weekends.

Overscheduling: Consider limits on activities that crowd out slumber.

Temperature: A cool bedroom is better.

Caffeine: Limit or rule out soda and chocolate.

Electronics: Keep TVs, phones and electronics out of the bedroom.

Bedtime routine: Encourage reading or other soothing activities before bed.

Extra help: Consult a doctor if a child continues to have trouble sleeping or appears exhausted.

Sources: Dr. Stephen Sheldon, Chicago’s Children’s Memorial Hospital; Jodi Mindell, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, author of “Take Charge of Your Child’s Sleep.”

Read more: Sleep may curb obesity in kids – The Denver Post
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