A Good Night's Sleep Reduces Risk of Childhood ObesityGetting more sleep may keep children from becoming overweight according to a review of 17 studies on sleep and childhood obesity. Researchers have found that every additional hour per night a third grader sleeps reduces the child's chances of being obese in 6th grade by 40 percent.
There are a number of reasons for the connection between insufficient sleep and weight gain. First, lack of sleep disrupts the hormones that tell us if we’re hungry or full. If we’re sleep-deprived we feel hungrier and are more likely to crave sweets and starchy foods. If we’re up late, we may indulge in more high-calorie snacks. Also, children who are sleep-deprived often feel exhausted and lazy and are less likely to be active.
How much sleep is enough? Children under 5 need at least 11 hours; ages 5-10, at least 10 hours; and 10 and older, at least 9 hours. Some children may need a little more or less sleep than these guidelines suggest.
How can you help your child get enough sleep? Set a bed time and stick to it. Don’t let children sleep too late on weekend mornings or they won’t be tired at bed time. A regular schedule is key to healthy sleep. Take televisions, cell phones, video games and computers out of childrens' rooms, removing the temptation to play rather than sleep. Encourage them to do something relaxing like take a bath, read or stretch before bed. It may be challenging at first, but within a week day childrens' biorhythms will adjust and they will start to naturally follow the sleep schedule.