Study Links Childhood Obesity to Lack of Sleep

When it comes to kids’ weight, here’s a handy phrase to remember: Sleep tight and you may be lighter.

That’s the core idea from a new research review published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

The review comes from Shahrad Taheri, MD, PhD, of England’s University of Bristol. He summed up studies on sleep and weight in kids and teens.

Taheri’s bottom line: There seems to be a link between skimping on sleep and being overweight.

Scientists haven’t figured out which comes first: a sleep debt or extra pounds.

Taheri points out several possible reasons for the sleep-weight link.

For instance, he says sleep shortfalls may increase hunger hormones.

Plain old tiredness may also be a factor, Taheri notes. After all, who has the energy to run around and burn calories when sleep is scarce?

How much sleep do kids and teens need? That depends on the child. Here are some general guidelines from the National Sleep Foundation.

Ages 1-2 months: 10.5-18 hours

Ages 3-11 months: 9-12 hours during night and 30-minute to two-hour naps, one to four times a day

Ages 1-3 years: 12-14 hours

Ages 3-5 years: 11-13 hours

Ages 5-12 years: 10-11 hours

Ages 11-17 years: 8.5-9.25 hours

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Sleep Tips for Kids and Teens

Taheri’s review is accompanied by these tips to help kids and teens get good sleep:

Ensure a regular bedtime routine. Set firm bedtimes and wake times. Ensure a quiet, dark, relaxing bedroom that’s not too hot or too cold. Kids' beds should be comfortable and only used for sleeping. Kids should be active, but not within a few hours of bedtime. Remove TVs, computers, and gadgets from kids’ bedrooms. Avoid large meals near bedtime.

The article also includes these sleep tips specifically for teens:

Avoid caffeinated drinks after lunchtime. Avoid nicotine, alcohol, and drugs. Avoid activities that may be arousing around bedtime (like heavy studying, text messaging, and playing video games). Avoid bright light in the evening. Get exposed to bright light upon waking up in the morning. Sleeping in is OK on the weekends, but not by more than two or three hours. Avoid staying up all night.

Obesity Doubles Kids' Risk of Diabetes

By Miranda Hitti, reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

SOURCES: Taheri, S. Archives of Disease in Childhood, November 2006; vol 91: pp 881-884. National Sleep Foundation web site.