Children Who Sleep Less Weigh More

child sleep weightA study published online in the British Medical Journal found that children who do not get adequate sleep are more likely to be overweight. According to ScienceDaily, researchers from New Zealand investigated the relationship between sleep and differences in body composition and the risk of becoming overweight in young children. They looked at 244 children who were taking part in The Family Lifestyle, Activity, Movement and Eating (FLAME) study in Dunedin, New Zealand. The weight, height, body mass index (BMI), and body composition of each child were measured every six months from ages 3 to 7. To measure sleep habits and physical activity levels, the children wore a belt carrying a device that monitors body movement.  The researchers also looked at the children’s diets through a questionnaire at 3, 4 and 5 years.

The findings indicated that young children who sleep less are at a significantly increased risk of having a higher BMI by age 7, even after controlling for other risk factors that have been implicated in body weight regulation.  According to the article, each additional hour of sleep per night at age 3 to 5 years was associated with a reduction in BMI of 0.49 and a 61% reduction in the risk of being overweight or obese at age 7. The researchers point out that the decreases in BMI were due to differences in fat mass, showing that poor sleep has negative effects on body composition itself, not simply the number on the scale.

The authors conclude that it appears that sleep is an important determinant of future body composition in young children. They recommend that appropriate sleep habits should be encouraged in all children as a public health measure, and call for more studies to determine whether more sleep or better sleeping patterns impact favorably on body weight and other health outcomes.

You can read the full summary here.

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