Kids Who Sleep For Longer Periods Are Less Likely To Overeat: Study
November 4, 2013

Kids Who Sleep For Longer Periods Are Less Likely To Overeat: Study

Michael Harper for - Your Universe Online

Children who get plenty of sleep are less likely to overeat and become overweight, according to a new study from Temple University.

After conducting an assessment of 37 children, the researchers found that children who slept for longer throughout the night consumed fewer calories in the day and weighed less. This reduction in weight is likely due to lower levels of the hormone Leptin, a hunger-regulating hormone that has been blamed before for causing obesity.

The Temple team plans to continue their research, but their results have already been backed up in a number of previous studies.

It’s been well documented, for instance, that children who don’t get ample sleep at night aren’t just more likely to become obese adults, they’re also more likely to be stressed and exhibit behavioral problems.

Chantelle Hart, PhD, associate professor of public health at Temple’s Center for Obesity Research and Education led the research, which is published in the journal Pediatrics.

Though the results of Hart’s study aren’t groundbreaking, hers is the first to manipulate the amount of sleep the children received each night rather than observe children in their natural cycles. Of the 37 eight- to eleven-year-old children observed in the study, 27 percent were considered overweight or obese.

During the first week of the study, the children weren’t asked to alter their sleep patterns in any way to create a control. The children were then split into groups and asked to alter their sleeping patterns, either sleeping more or less than they normally would. In the third week of the study, the children who were asked to get more sleep were then asked to sleep less and vice versa.

Hart says the results of the study conclusively show that children who slept for longer periods in the evening were generally healthier than those who slept less. Specifically, children who got more sleep at night ate 134 fewer calories a day and weighed half a pound less. During the parts of the day the kids weren’t eating, their leptin levels were lower than those kids who hadn’t gotten the same amount of sleep. This, says Hart, helps the children who sleep longer resist the urges to snack, increase caloric intake and eventually become overweight and/or obese.

“Findings from this study suggest that enhancing school-age children’s sleep at night could have important implications for prevention and treatment of obesity,” said Hart in a statement. “The potential role of sleep should be further explored.”

A 2012 study completed by researchers from the University of Alberta also found that children who slept more during the night were less likely to become overweight. Specifically, this study found children who slept at least one hour more a night were less likely to become obese and blamed the lack of sleep on the distractions presented by electronic devices in the children’s bedrooms.

“If you want your kids to sleep better and live a healthier lifestyle, get the technology out of the bedroom,” explained the study´s co-author Paul Veugelers, a professor in the School of Public Health.

Fixed bedtimes and plenty of sleep have been found to not just prevent obesity, they also make for well-behaved, happy children. Last month the University College London published a study that found that kids who had a consistent bedtime every night were less likely to act out at school than those children who went to bed at a different time every night.