Childhood obesity is a major concern in the United States. First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move Initiative” is a positive step in the right direction. However, recent studies have shown we may need to wake up to how sleep affects our children’s weight.
Over the past ten years, the contents of a child’s bedroom have changed significantly. A great number of children have televisions, video games, and computers in their bedrooms. As a result, children stay up much later.
However, a study reported by the University of Michigan in 2007 suggests sleep deprivation causes weight gain in children. The study was conducted with children grades 3rd and 6th. Researchers discovered children who got less than 9 hours of sleep were more likely to gain weight over the next year.
Furthermore, this research indicates that sleep deprivation can impact a child’s energy levels. Similar to adults, when a child’s energy levels are low he or she turns to sugar and simple carbohydrates to regulate their mood.
Additionally, sleep deprived children are less likely to participate in physical activities. A lack of physical activities results in weight gain and eventually obesity.
The connection between lack of sleep and weight gain in children may be linked to hormones. Sleep deprivation affects the hormones levels of leptin and insulin. These hormones regulate fat storage, appetite, and glucose metabolism. Children who don’t get enough sleep have trouble metabolizing carbohydrates and burning fat, thus leading to weight gain.
As such, the National Sleep Foundation recommends 11 to 13 hours of sleep for preschoolers, 10 to 12 hours of sleep for elementary age children, 9 to 10 hours of sleep for preteens (tweens), and 8 ½ to 9 hours of sleep for teenagers.
How can you ensure your child gets enough sleep? You can ensure your child gets more snooze time by:
- 1. Setting an age-appropriate bedtime.
- 2. Turning off the TV or other electronics.
- 3. Playing soft music to get your child to sleep.
- 4. Removing television and other electronics from the bedroom to the family room or another common area of the house.
- 5. Make sure your child is active during the day.
- 6. Cutting back on refine sugars and simple carbohydrates late in the evening.
- 7. Encourage or schedule naps.
These are just a few methods you can use to guarantee your child gets enough sleep. Without enough sleep your child can be at risk for weight gain which leads to obesity. With this in mind, parents may realize their child’s weight management is not only affected by what he or she eats but how much their child sleeps.
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