The evidence just keeps coming: sleep plays a critical role in helping children maintain a healthy weight, and protecting them from the health risks associated with being overweight and obese.
The results of a recent study published in the Journal of American Medical Association indicate that every additional hour of sleep young children receive can reduce their risk of being overweight.
Researchers in New Zealand studied the sleep habits and weight changes of 244 children between the ages of 3-7. To investigate the relationship between sleep and weight, they measured the children's height, weight, BMI and body composition. They also tracked children's sleep, physical activity, and diet at ages 3, 4, and 5. What did they find?
This latest study joins a large and growing body of evidence that sleep has a significant impact on children's weight. Children who are sleep deprived are at greater risk for weight problems. The risk starts early, and can extend into adulthood. Recent research into the sleep-weight connection has shown:
Helping children develop strong sleep habits is an important investment in their long-term health -- and as this new study and others indicate, you can't start too soon. But how much sleep is enough?
Researchers in the current study reported that the children in their study slept 11 hours per night, on average. For children this young, this just isn't enough. Kids need more sleep than adults -- and not just very young children. Through adolescence, children require additional sleep. Here's a quick rundown on children's sleep needs, and tips for parents to help their children develop strong sleep habits:
New babies will sleep 11 to 18 hours day, but any new parent knows, there's no predicting exactly when this sleeping will take place!
Infants up to one year old need 9-12 hours of sleep per night, as well as naps during the day.
Children 3-5 need 11-13 hours per night. Their nighttime sleep is even more important now, since regular naps are often a thing of the past.
Children 5-12 need 10-11 hours of sleep per night. By this time, kids are getting busy -- with school, sports, and social schedules. Their sleep is critical.
Promoting strong sleep habits in your children is a process that starts early and really never stops. Your efforts can make all the difference in helping your child maintain a healthy weight and good overall heath over the length of their lives.
Michael J. Breus, PhD
The Sleep Doctor™
The Sleep Doctor's Diet Plan: Lose Weight Through Better Sleep
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