Sleep and childhood obesity

Results from US research studying the effect of experimental changes in children’s sleep duration on self-reported food intake, appetite-regulating hormones, and measured weight was recently released.

Thirty-seven children aged between 8 and 11 years old took part in the three week study. 27% of these were overweight or obese. For the first week children slept their typical amount at home. For the second week they were randomly assigned to increase or decrease their typical amount of sleep by 1.5 hours and for the third week they did the opposite e.g. if they increased their typical sleep by 1.5 hours in week two they decreased it by 1.5 hours in week three.  

Throughout the study researchers collected data on dietary intake over 24 hours, fasting leptin and ghrelin levels and children’s weight. Leptin and ghrelin are hunger hormones which help regulate how much food we eat.

Increased sleep duration in school-age children resulted in lower reported food intake, lower fasting leptin levels and lower weight when compared with decreased sleep. When children increased their sleep they reported eating 134 fewer calories per day.

This research suggests that sleep has an active role to play in the treatment and prevention of childhood obesity. It is supported by recent Italian research which showed that chronic short sleep leads to an increase in children’s BMI levels as well as systematic reviews which show a clear association between short sleep duration and increased risk of childhood obesity. Recent research has also shown that children with non-regular or late bedtimes have more behavioural difficulties. 

Posted: 04/11/2013 15:02:41 by Laura Keaver


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