Why Your Child Sleeping Less Might Be Leading to Obesity

Jill Holtz

May 7, 2015

child sleeping

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A new study has found that your child’s sleeping patterns might be a key factor in obesity and within a relatively short time too. Find out why your child sleeping less might be leading to obesity:

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The study* by researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine found that lack of sleep and sleep disorders that affect breathing, such as sleep apnea, increase obesity risk in kids.

Dr. Karen Bonuck and her colleagues used data collected on 1,899 children by the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) based in Avon, England.

Two Key Factors

1) Lack of Sleep

With respect to sleep duration, children with the shortest sleep time at approximately 5 and 6 years of age had a 60 to 100 percent increased risk of being obese at 15 years. In the study, children with short sleep duration were those who, in any given age group, slept less than 90 percent of their peers.

child sleepingFor those aged 5 and 6 years old, this was 10.5 hours a night or less. So this appears to be a critical age for ensuring your child gets enough sleep.

Too little sleep impacts levels of thyroid and stress hormones, which in turn can affect memory, immune system, heart and metabolism, and much more.

2) Sleep Disordered Breathing

The researchers also found that children with the most severe sleep disordered breathing (SDB), such as snoring, sleep apnea or mouth-breathing, that this affected their breathing during sleep time and resulted in the greatest risk for obesity.

Those children who fell into the “worst case” SDB category were twice as likely to become obese by 7, 10 and 15 years of age, compared to the asymptomatic group.

Addressing the problem

So what can parents do?

Firstly, if you’ve noticed any sleep disorder such as excessive snoring or apnea, get it checked with your doctor. A common cause of SDB is enlarged tonsils or adenoids, which can be removed through surgery.

child bedtime

If your child has difficulties falling asleep or resists going to bed, is prone to sleep walking, then it may also be worth getting them checked out, as these may indicate a sleep disorder.

Malocclusion, misalignment of the jaws and teeth, can be treated with a night guard or through orthodontic care.

As for lack of sufficient sleep, which affects an estimated 25 to 50 percent of preschoolers, it’s important for them to learn good sleep habits and to have a good bedtime routine.

Here are some tips for encouraging good child sleep habits:

#1. Establish a regular time for going to bed and waking up

Setting a regular time for both going to bed and for waking up time, helps the body clock to get into a regular pattern.

#2. Ensure your child is getting enough sleep

Here’s a guide for how much sleep do kids need:

  • 18 months – 3 years need 12-14 hours/night
  • 3-5 years need 11-13 hours/night
  • 5-12 years need 10-11 hours/night
  • Teens need 9-10 hours/night

teddy-bear-567952_640#3. Make a nice bedtime routine

Include at least 15-30 minutes of calm, soothing activities. Interact with your child at bedtime.

Read together. Bedtime stories are a very easy way to establish a bedtime routine and children look forward to them, particularly if it’s a chapter (or two) each night.

#4. Try to avoid helping your child fall asleep.

Try to not let your child fall asleep while being held, rocked, fed a bottle, or while nursing.

#5. Limit caffeinated drinks

Make sure not to give caffeinated drinks (including sodas and hot chocolate) later in the day.

#6. Cut out high-tech distractions in the bedroom

Avoid screen time and particularly in the bedroom. Make sure tablets and phones are off during the bedtime routine.

#7. Don’t think Naps will Make up for a Bad Sleep at Night

Napping has no effects on the development of obesity and is not a substitute for a good night time sleep.

* The study is titled “Sleep-Disordered Breathing, Sleep Duration, and Childhood Overweight: A Longitudinal Study.” and was published in The Journal of Pediatrics.

Over to you now. What are your thoughts on sleep and your child? Have you had any issues? What tips can you share? Tell us in the comments below.

Like this? Share it with your network!

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Published On: May 7th, 2015 / Categories: For Parents / Last Updated: March 31st, 2021 / Tags: /

About the Author: Jill Holtz

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Jill is one of the co-founders of Mykidstime and a mum of 2 girls

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