Lack of sleep linked to obesity in kids
A consistent bedtime is vital for children, not just for academic performance but also for their physical health. According to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics, young children with unhealthy sleep patterns are more likely to become obese by 7-years-old.
According to the American Heart Association, nearly one in three U.S. children and teens are now overweight or obese—nearly triple the rate in 1963. Obesity in children can lead to complications that are not usually seen until adulthood: high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and elevated blood cholesterol levels.
Researchers analyzed the sleep schedules of 1,046 children, ages 6 months to 7-years-old, to determine if insufficient sleep raised their risk of childhood obesity. Insufficient sleep was defined as fewer than 12 hours per day for children ages 2 and younger, fewer than 10 hours per day for ages 3 and 4, and fewer than nine hours per day for ages 5 and 7.
Compared to children who obtained quality sleep, the most sleep-deprived children were two and a half times more likely to be obese. In addition, they were more likely to have higher waist and hip circumference as well as greater levels of abdominal fat and total fat.
According to Dr. Boguslaw Bonczak, family medicine physician with Advocate Medical Group in Elgin, Illinois, lack of sleep on its own is not a cause of obesity. Rather, it is the unhealthy behaviors associated with sleep deprivation.
“These behaviors include sedentary activities like watching television, playing video games and snacking on junk food,” Dr. Bonczak explains. “It’s mainly the unhealthy behaviors children are doing in place of sleeping that is causing an association between lack of sleep and obesity.”
Dr. Bonczak’s advice for parents is to create a consistent routine in the evening that includes a specific time for dinner as a family, television/computer time and bedtime. Also, he recommends keeping television, computers and other forms of technology, such as iPads and iPhones, outside of the bedroom to ensure your kids aren’t staying up late.
“The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children engage in entertainment media (television, computers, iPhones) for no more than two hours per day,” Dr. Bonczak says. “Instead of sitting indoors, children need to be active and playing outside. I don’t believe lack of sleep is the problem, but rather the behaviors associated with it.”
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