I feel like I've written about this topic numerous times before, but the studies just keeping coming and coming and coming... and a new one just confirmed what we've already had a clue about: the more sleep-deprived you are, the greater your risk is for being overweight and obese.
And this is true for both adults and kids. This is believed to be due to the fact proper sleep makes for a proper balance of hormones related to appetite, hunger, metabolism, and even fat retention.
But what this most recent study, which was just reported this week, actually reveals that we haven't learned before is this: a child's risk of being fat in adulthood increases due to poor sleep habits as a kid.
That's right: how well your kids sleep will have long-term effects on them. The relationship between sleep and obesity risk is much more intricate and "time-consuming" than previously thought. To think that a kid's sleep habits relate to his or her chances of being an obese adult is pretty astonishing. It's contrary to conventional wisdom to think that inadequate sleep in childhood has long-lasting consequences.
Let me spell out the good news: if you can help your child get a good night's rest, you can help your kid avoid being overweight or worse, obese later in life. I think it's much easier to force a kid to bed earlier than to force him or her to stop eating junk food on a consistent basis. Not that parents shouldn't also help their kids learn to eat well for life, but you know what I mean.
Kids need more sleep than adults do. Those between the ages of 5 and 12 should bank about 11-12 hours each night, while teenagers should get 9 to 10 hours.
How many hours are yours getting? Do you even know?
Things that could be keeping your kids up at night:
- Too much electronic media like cell phones, computers, and video games. Is there a media curfew in the household?
- Not enough physical activity during the day to make them sleepy at night. Do they engage in enough physical activity during the day--at least 30 minutes of cardio?
- Poor time management as our kids find themselves up late finishing homework. Are they overwhelmed with things to do but not enough time to do it all? (Sounds like an adult problem, but our kids can suffer the same when they really shouldn't have to... yet.)
- A natural inclination to go to bed late and get up late due to their young biological rhythms. The problem is they can't sleep in every day due to school obligations so they are forced to cut their sleep short.
No parent wants his or her kid to grow up fat or obese, so I think it is good to know we can help prevent that from happening just by focusing on instilling habits of good sleep hygiene into our kids. It will reinforce good habits in our own lives, too. One would hope...
Follow Dr. Michael J. Breus on Twitter: www.twitter.com/thesleepdoctor