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Obesity Linked to Lack of Sleep in Childhood

by: Stefan Simonovic

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

We all lead busy lives and have trouble finding the time for some shuteye. It takes a lot of sacrifice to raise a family, build a career, have a fulfilling social or romantic life, BBW dating included, and have some ‘me time’ that doesn’t involve a trip to the dentist.

When it comes to raising children, building healthy habits and teaching them the importance of routine is paramount for raising healthy adults who make the right choices when it comes to their well-being. Today, we look at the obvious association between sleeping habits in children and the subsequent effects on their weight later on in life.

Sleep Disruption and Excess Weight

Obesity is prevalent in the US across all age groups, and when it comes to children, 17% of them are considered obese. A lack of sleep and obesity have long been linked although the association isn’t perfectly clear. What is clear, however, is that one-third of 2 to 3-year-old children sleep less than it’s recommended, and only 20 percent of teenagers get the right amount of sleep on a school night, which is 9 hours at their age. It is not just the sleep duration that has been linked to obesity in the youngest population, but factors such as sleep patterns and sleep timing play a significant role also.

Bedtimes after 9:00 PM have been found to magnify the risk of obesity in childhood. In recent years, later bedtimes have been strongly associated with more screen time in school-age children, meaning the desire to stay connected on social media or watch television in the evening lead to children falling asleep later. It is suggested that late bedtime alone may be a contributing factor when it comes to obesity risk.

Studies have also shown that if sleep timing varies greatly between a weekday and a weekend, especially if combined with shorter sleep duration, the risk of obesity and poor metabolic health in children increases. School-age children and adolescents who go to bed late and get up late are more likely to be overweight, have more screen time, and are less physically active than their peers who go to bed early and rise early.

Although the association between sleep duration and weight gain isn’t perfectly clear, especially not in children, there is no denying the fact that it exists. In adults, short sleep duration leads to a higher BMI because of hormonal changes associated with appetite regulation, particularly leptin and ghrelin, but results from research that looks at children are conflicting. Chronotype, whether someone is an early bird or a night owl, is another factor that is worth mentioning when we examine the lack of sleep-obesity association, but links between chronotype and excess weight in children and adolescents need to be studied further.

Other Adverse Effects of Sleep Problems

Increased calorie intake is just the tip of the iceberg. Insufficient sleep also contributes to behavioral and learning problems in children, and parents simply need to put sleep higher up on the list of priorities. Our children’s schedules are more packed than ever, but until they reach their teens going to bed after 9PM puts them at risk of developing behavioral problems in addition to being obese. This means that all activities, including the sedentary ones, such as screen time, should be finished before 9.


About the author:

Stefan is a writer and a blogger in his spare time. He also works for First Beat Media, a company that mainly focuses on the online dating niche and similar services.



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