Americans just keep getting fatter, it’s true, but did you know that sleep deprivation could play a role in tipping the scales?
Studies have connected sleep, eating and weight in adults and older children. Now new research published in the International Journal of Obesity has found that the same may hold true for younger children under the age of three.
You can’t take sleep for granted. It’s more important than you may think.
The study, by researchers at University College London (UCL) and funded by Cancer Research UK, found that young tots who sleep less tend to eat more. Overeating becomes a habit, and the dominoes line up for obesity and other health problems as kids mature.
While obesity in adulthood is a concern, obesity in children is another can of worms altogether, leading to disease and even more strain on health care. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that one in three children in the United States born in 2,000 will develop diabetes at some point in their lifetime.
Right now there are kids under the age of 10 that are developing type 2 diabetes, a disease usually found in adults over 40. Type 2 diabetes can lead to eye, kidney and organ damage. An earlier diagnosis of diabetes means a higher risk of long-term damage.
The UCL study involved 1,303 U.K. families, where sleep was monitored when the children were 16-months-old and diet was monitored when the children were 21-months-old.
The results showed that 16-month-old children who slept fewer than 10 hours per day consumed 105 calories more per day compared to children who slept for 13 or more hours per day. The difference in calorie consumption amounted to approximately a 10 percent increase from 982 calories to 1,087 calories – children who sleep fewer hours are prone to eating more. But why? Researchers suggest the regulation of appetite hormones may be disrupted by shorter sleep cycles.
Adults need adequate sleep too, an average of 7.5 hours of quality sleep per night. So if you’re not getting this, you’re sleep-deprived. Just like kids, sleep deprivation can lead to overeating which can lead to obesity.
When you’re tired, you’re more likely to make poor food choices such as consuming sugary drinks and snacks for a quick energy boost. Sleep deprivation can also slow your metabolism. Two hormones known as ghrelin and leptin are affected; ghrelin tells your body when to eat and leptin tells your body when it’s full. But when you’re low on sleep, you have more ghrelin and less leptin. That combination leads to weight gain.
The take-home message from the current study is that people require adequate quality sleep to maintain their health.
It’s crucial to address sleep and diet patterns in kids to avoid obesity and other health problems later in life. And adults need to lead the charge, making sure they get quality sleep to maintain a healthy weight and achieve overall good health.
Make your bedroom your friend and treat sleep as a priority – for yourself and your children.
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