One more reason to get kids to bed on time

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

It's always hard to get kids to go to bed when it's still daylight outside at 9 p.m., but there is a reason other than they'll wake up grumpy.

Eventually, they may wake up lumpy, according to a new study that linked childhood obesity to chronic sleep deprivation during infancy and early childhood.

Using data from Project Viva, a long-term study of environmental factors and lifestyle choices of mothers, the study led by Dr. Elsie Taveras of Mass-General Hospital for Children, found "convincing evidence that getting less than recommended amounts of sleep across early childhood is an independent and strong risk factor for obesity."

Researchers interviewed mothers and their children at about 6 months, 3 years and 7 years old and from questionnaires completed when children were 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6 years old.

Height and weight measurements were recorded, and insufficient sleep was defined as less than 12 hours per day from age 6 months to 2-years-old, less than 10 hours a day for children ages 3 and 4, and less than 9 hours a day for children ages 5 to 7, and were assigned a score.

Children with the lowest sleep scores had the highest weight and body mass index in all measurements, including abdominal fat. They tended to come from racial and ethnic minority families with lower incomes and less education, but sleep and obesity were still linked after adjusting for such factors.

Of course, obesity isn't the only potential problem; other studies link poor sleep habits to behavioral problems and learning disabilities.

So, if you didn't already believe that sending kids to bed on time is important, the idea that you may be sentencing them to obesity problems is one more incentive.

Of course, it's not just children who benefit from getting enough sleep -- long-term sleep deprivation has been linked to dementia, heart disease, mental illness and other chronic health conditions.

But to help your child avoid being lumpy and grumpy:

Set a consistent bedtime.

Limit caffeinated beverages late in the day

Cut out high-tech distractions in a child's bedroom.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: