SLEEP - The Strategy To Fight Childhood Obesity

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Sleep has a powerful impact on obesity risk in children and adults. A compelling body of evidence tells us that how well we sleep, how long we sleep and the sleep habits we keep can affect one’s likelihood of developing obesity as early as infancy.

The following recent research has shown the scope of sleep’s influence over children’s appetite, eating habits, and tendency to become overweight or obese:
  • Shorter sleep in infants increases the risk of being overweight at pre-school age. Researchers determined that infants who sleep fewer than 12 hours nightly had twice the risk of being overweight by age 3.
  • Children age 4 and younger who sleep fewer than 10 hours a night are significantly more likely to be overweight five years later, according to a 2010 study.
  • A study of 5- and 6-year-olds found that rates of obesity declined as nightly sleep duration increased. Sleeping for longer than 11.5 hours a night cut the risk of obesity by more than half.
  • One study found that children who get ample sleep eat less during the day, weigh less, and have lower levels of the hormone leptin that changes appetite and metabolism.                                   Obesity that starts in early childhood generally continues into adolescence and adulthood where it is accompanied by the health risks of being overweight, which include diabetes, heart disease and cancer. In addition to setting good habits during waking hours, children at this early age also develop healthy or unhealthy sleep habits. Establishing good sleep routines that promote high-quality sleep, include consistent bedtimes, and providing ample time for sleep, can have a lasting impact on a child’s health. Time spent building strong sleep routines for young children pays off in many important ways. This healthy sleep lowers the risk of obesity, helps with language, intellectual and behavioral development.

    Everyone from birth to adulthood can suffer the ill effects of insufficient sleep, including the increased risk for obesity. These new figures are encouraging, and reason to double our efforts to change the obesity trends among all age groups. It’s time to make this truly a turning tide—and a lasting one. For that, sleep is a critical part of the strategy.

    Credit:  Michael J. Breus, PhD

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