Who would have thought it? Lack of sleep in kids has a direct correlation to childhood obesity. For one week, the University of Chicago tracked the sleep patterns of 308 children (ages 4-10) in Louisville, KY.
Adolescents who got the least amount of sleep had a 4.2 times higher risk of becoming obese. Those who slept during the week but stayed up late on weekend nights tripled their risk.
Coupled with lack of sleep is the question, “What are kids doing when they’re not tucked between the sheets?” The answer, not surprisingly, is that they’re playing video games (a sedentary activity), watching TV (another sedentary activity), and eating high-calorie junk food, which are all associated with higher childhood obesity rates.
Researchers believe that sleep deprivation affects metabolism and the endocrine system, especially when the body is young and growing. It also negatively affects two hormones that regulate hunger and appetite, causing overeating. And if that isn’t enough, lack of sleep throws off the body’s biological clock… particularly the mechanism that controls glucose and insulin. When this regulatory mechanism is out of balance, it causes weight gain, heart disease and diabetes. And finally, lack of sleep increases the levels of the hormone cortisol, which regulates how the body uses energy. High levels of cortisol have been linked to insulin resistance and a higher BMI (body mass index).
So how many hours a night should the average child sleep? The NIH (National Institutes of Health) recommends 9 to 10 hours a night. Dr. David Gozal, one of the University of Chicago’s lead researchers and chair of the pediatrics department at the University of Chicago in Illinois said, “Adequate sleep can help reduce obesity as well as other health problems like cardiovascular disease and diabetes now and in the future.”
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