In kids, too few ZZZs could mean too many lbs

Jan. 11, 2015—Poor sleep habits can do more than leave your little one cranky and bleary-eyed come morning. According to a study, chronic lack of sleep could significantly raise a child’s risk for becoming overweight or obese later in life.

About the study

Researchers collected periodic parent-reported data on sleep habits of 1,899 children from birth through age 6. Parents reported how long their child slept as well as symptoms of sleep-disordered breathing (SDB), a cluster of sleep-related breathing problems including snoring, sleep apnea and mouth breathing. The children’s body mass indexes were measured at local clinics through age 15.

Lack of sleep (less than 9 hours for school-aged children) and SDB were both likely to increase a child’s risk for becoming overweight or obese by age 15. Children with the worst cases of SDB had double the odds of becoming obese at ages 7, 10, and 15 compared to kids without SDB.

The study reaffirms the importance of healthy sleep habits for young children. Experts have long known that the road to obesity often begins early in life, and sleep may play a crucial role in helping kids maintain a healthy weight.

Learn more about this research online in The Journal of Pediatrics.

The take-home message
As of 2012, more than one-third of U.S. children were overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And for many of them, poor sleep habits may play a part. For healthy development, the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) recommends kids ages 5 to 12 need 10 to 11 hours of sleep per night.

To help your child establish healthy sleeping habits, the NSF encourages:

  • Setting an appropriate bedtime for your child, and encouraging him or her to stick with it
  • Keeping your child’s bedroom dark, cool and quiet, with no TV or computer
  • Avoiding caffeine in your child’s diet

Sleep-disordered breathing—such as snoring, sleep apnea or mouth breathing—can also lead to poor sleep. If you think that your child may be experiencing sleep-disordered breathing, talk with his or her pediatrician to learn about available treatments.


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