Young children who get too little sleep are more likely than others to be obese by age 7, according to a new study.
Previous research has suggested insufficient sleep before age 4 raised the risk of obesity. But the new study, published online May 19 in Pediatrics, observed the link from infancy to mid-childhood.
“Insufficient sleep is an independent and strong risk factor for childhood obesity and the accumulation of total fat and abdominal fat,” said study researcher Dr. Elsie Taveras, chief of general pediatrics at Massachusetts General Hospital for Children in Boston.
“The main strength of this study is we looked at sleep at multiple periods,” she added.
Excess body fat in childhood sets the stage for serious health problems, such as heart disease and diabetes.
Taveras and her team studied more than 1,000 children. Curtailed sleep was defined as fewer than 12 hours a day from ages 6 months to 2 years, fewer than 10 hours daily for ages 3 and 4, and fewer than nine hours a day for ages 5 to 7.
Kids who were most sleep deprived were about 2.5 times more likely to be obese than those who slept the most, the study found.
They were also 2.5 times more likely to have higher total fat, higher abdominal fat and a higher waist and hip circumference, said Taveras.
Many possible explanations exist for this association, Taveras said.
“If you sleep too little, it disrupts some of the hormones that regulate how hungry we are and how full we are,” Taveras said.
In households with no consistent bedtime for children, there is likely to be chaos around regular mealtimes, too, and that can affect weight, she added.
Children who don’t sleep enough may watch more television than kids who go to bed earlier, she said. Watching TV has long been linked with eating more, especially in response to food commercials, she said.
Or the children may have other “high-tech distractions,” she said.
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SOURCE: WebMD News from HealthDay