Make Your Kids Get Their Zzzzzs -- Or Get Fat

So you thought the only reason to get your kids to bed early was some peace and quiet?  Guess again.  A new study has found that sleep -- or lack thereof -- is tied to obesity.

Children who do not sleep enough may be increasing their risk for obesity, a story reported today in The New York Times.

In the study children who slept more ate 134 calories fewer each day during the week they were tested than the week when they did not. Their weight averaged a half-pound less the week they slept the most.

The bottom line?  Children who sleep more may see their appetites decrease, while, conversely, children who only get five or six hours of sleep a night may just want to eat more.

It's also true of adults.  Studies have shown that it happens in adults, too.

"Obesity develops when energy intake is greater than expenditure. Diet and physical activity play an important part in this, but an additional factor may be inadequate sleep," Dr Kristen Knutson, from the University of Chicago, told sciencedaily.com. "A review of the evidence shows how short or poor quality sleep is linked to increased risk of obesity by de-regulating appetite, leading to increased energy consumption." 

Lack of sleep can also increase blood pressure and impair glucose function. 

According to Patti Neighmond at npr.com, "Research has shown that people who sleep a good eight hours-plus are more likely to maintain a normal weight than those who sleep less than eight hours a night." She notes that a good, long night's sleep may be just as important as diet and physical activity for kids as young as preschoolers and even infants.

My son defies the studies.  He has never been a good sleeper, from infancy on.  He seems to do fine on six or seven hours of sleep a night, and was recently judged underweight by his pediatrician.  But I know it's not good for him, and we do try to get him to go to bed earlier on school nights.  Is it our fault he's a night owl?!




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