Childhood obesity is a growing health problem in the United States, more than tripling in the past 30 years. Obesity in children aged 6 to 19 has risen 13.1%. We all know that overweight children are more likely to become overweight adults. Also, extra pounds put children at greater risk for sleep apnea, joint problems, and poor self-esteem. Alarmingly, 70% of obese children aged 5 to 17 exhibit at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease. What you may not know is poor eating habits may not be the only culprit in childhood obesity.
A new study by the University of Chicago states there is a correlation between the amount of sleep a child gets and their body weight. The report, which was published in the February issue of Pediatrics, states that children who do not get enough sleep are four times as likely to be obese. The report goes on to state that it is not only lack of sleep that contributes to unhealthy body weight, but also irregular sleep patterns.
The University of Chicago studied sleep patterns in 308 children between the ages of 4 and 10 from Louisville, Kentucky. The study was conducted during the school year to simulate the typical activities of the participants. The children were classified as normal, overweight or obese based on their body mass index (BMI). Then, each child was given a small device to wear on their wrist for a week which monitored how much sleep the child got. The study demonstrated that the children who got the least amount of sleep overall were four times as likely to be in the obese range. It also demonstrated that these children’s sleep schedule varied on a daily basis. In contrast, more children who got more sleep and had a routine bedtime schedule ranked in the normal weight classification.
Dr. David Gozal, Chair of the Pediatrics Department of the University of Chicago and one of the study’s lead researchers, states that numerous studies demonstrate that hormone levels of leptin and gherlin, which regulate hunger and appetite are affected by lack of sleep. Furthermore, the studies have indicated that lack of sleep interferes with the body’s natural rhythms, causing glucose and insulin levels to be out of balance. The imbalances of these hormones contribute to weight gain, heart disease, and diabetes. These studies indicate that sleep is important in regulating metabolism.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends children get 9 to 10 hours of sleep. Parents cite many reasons for the fact that their children do not get enough sleep: busy family schedules, homework, and electronic devices that keep their kids connected to their friends late into the evening. Children follow their parents’ examples. When adults need more time in their day, they sleep less. This trend may be causing our children to become unhealthy. Implementing a regular bed time and ensuring that your child gets the recommended hours of sleep will promote healthier and happier children.