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Getting Enough Sleep May Help Prevent Weight Gain!

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Getting Enough Sleep May Help Prevent Weight Gain!

We all know it’s important to get enough sleep, but do you know why? 

Lack of sleep can affect judgment, reaction time, alertness and mood – factors that put children at a learning disadvantage. Children with a set bedtime on school nights feel they get better sleep, and most adolescents think that 8 hours of sleep each night allows them to feel their best during the day. It makes sense that a well-rested child is in a better frame of mind to learn in school, but did you know that insufficient sleep may also be a risk factor for being overweight?

The Science on Sleep

A recent study found that twice as many 3-year-olds who slept less than 12 hours  were overweight compared to those who slept more than 12 hours. Another study found that 7-year-olds getting less than 9 hours of sleep were four times more likely to be overweight than the children who got 9 or more hours of sleep.  Three behaviors associated with a reduced risk of obesity among 4-year-olds are: 1- getting at least 10 hours of sleep each night; 2- watching less than two hours of television each day; and 3- regularly eating evening meals with the family.

How Sleep Impacts Your Hormones

Leptin and ghrelin are two hormones that influence the amount of food we eat.  Leptin decreases the appetite, while ghrelin increases it. Research has found that a lack of sleep is associated with higher ghrelin and lower leptin levels, which increases appetite. Another possible reason why lack of sleep may lead to weight gain is that more awake time gives us more opportunities to eat.  People get fewer hours of sleep may also be less physically active. Or, shorter sleep may just go along with other unhealthy behaviors, such as snacking in front of the TV. Adults need their sleep too!

How many hours of sleep should your child be getting?

  • 1 to 3-year-olds should get 12 to 14 hours per 24 hours (including naps)
  • 3 to 5-year-olds should get 11 to 13 hours per 24 hours (including naps)
  • 5 to 12-year-olds should get 10 to 11 hours per night

Tips for Good Sleeping Habits

  • Set a regular bedtime
  • Keep the room where your child sleeps dark and quiet at bedtime (that means no T.V.)
  • Limit media entertainment time (T.V., videos, games, computer) to 2 hours per day
  • Limit or avoid nighttime snacking
  • Avoid eating in front of the T.V.


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About the Author

Picture of Diana King, M.D.

Diana King, M.D.

Diana is a pediatrician who works in a hospital in the Bronx, N.Y. and specializes in Pediatric Emergency Medicine. She also earned a masters degree in Applied Physiology and Nutrition from Teachers College, Columbia University, and hopes to develop workshops for medical professionals that will teach them how to adopt healthier lifestyles and how to help their patients attain healthier diet and physical activity behaviors.

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