Not getting enough shuteye can make kids wake up on the wrong
side of the bed, with a day that's long on moodiness and short
on cooperation and attention. But a new study shows that skimping
on ZZZs can affect kids' health in an even more serious way -
making it more likely they'll become overweight.
Researchers set out to see if there was a link between sleep -
or lack thereof - and putting on too many pounds. So, they looked
at 800 kids' sleep patterns - problems and how long they
snoozed - as well as their body mass index (BMI, a calculation
using height and weight to estimate a person's body fat) over
What they found:
- Third-graders who didn't get the recommended amount of
nightly sleep, regardless of their BMI, were more likely to be
overweight in sixth grade. Indeed, every added hour of sleep in
third grade meant a 40% drop in kids' risk of excessive
weight gain by sixth grade.
- Sixth-graders who got less than the recommended 9 hours of
nightly sleep were more apt to become overweight during that same
school year. For every added hour of sleep they got,
sixth-graders had a 20% less chance of becoming overweight.
What This Means to You
On top of putting kids at risk for becoming overweight, lack of
sleep can lead to irritability, hyperactivity, and extremes in
behavior. Plus, too-little sleep can make a condition like
attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) even worse. All of
that added behavioral baggage can set the stage for problems in
school and tension at home.
Kids need different amounts of sleep as they grow to help both
their brains and their bodies function at their best. For 6- to
9-year-olds, it's about 10 hours a night, whereas for 10- to
12-year-olds quickly approaching their teens, it's slightly
less (a little more than 9 hours a night). Of course, you're
the best judge of how much rest your child needs each day - some
kids may need a little more than others.
To help make healthy amounts of shuteye a regular occurrence in
- Encourage your kids to go to bed at the same time every night
and wake up at the same time every morning, allowing for the
right amount of time they need for their age and personal
- Carve out some private time with each child - without
siblings - just before bedtime to talk about the day, read
together, or listen to soothing music. This can make the nightly
routine feel a little more special and personal.
- Encourage regular physical activity, but not within 2 to 3
hours of bedtime.
- Limit caffeine-containing beverages, especially after 4
- Keep bedrooms room cool, dark, and noise-free. Consider
eliminating distractions by putting TVs, video consoles, and
computers in a common area of your home instead of a child's
room, where kids may be perpetually tempted to watch or play for
"just one more minute."
Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: November 2007
Source: "Shorter Sleep Duration Is Associated With
Increased Risk for Being Overweight at Ages 9 to 12 Years,"
, November 2007.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice,
diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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