Study Finds Children Who Sleep Less Far More Likely To Be Overweight

A new study published in the International Journal of Obesity finds that children who get less sleep (under 10 hours a night), are at a 350% greater risk of becoming overweight than those who sleep longer (12 or more hours a night).

The 422 children analyzed were between the ages of 5 and 10. The researchers conducted telephone interviews with the parents in order to obtain data on the children’s sleep habits and other aspects of their home life. In-person measurements were taken of the children’s height, weight, and waist sizes.

The researchers found that 20% of the boys and 24% of the girls were overweight. When their sleep patterns were considered, the children who slept less were 350% more likely to be overweight. Significantly, the sleep factor had more of an impact on the issue of weight than did any other single variable considered.

Thus, the drastic rise in childhood obesity and the simultaneous decrease in the average amount of sleep over the past 40 years may be interrelated and worthy of closer examination. One theory is that hormone production may be at the heart of the matter since, according to one of the study’s authors, lack of sleep “lowers the level of leptin, a hormone that stimulates metabolism and decreases hunger. In addition, short nights of sleep boost the concentration of ghrelin, a hormone that increases hunger.”

In any event, the conclusion suggested by the study is that children should be exercising more while getting as much sleep as possible.

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