A recent study conducted by researchers at MassGeneral Hospital for Children and published in the medical journal Pediatrics takes a comprehensive look at the link between insufficient sleep and childhood obesity.
According to a May 19 press release, the study revealed that children who consistently slept less than the recommended number of hours showed increases in obesity and overall body fat at the age of 7. This is reportedly one of the few studies that have examined chronic sleep deprivation among children using more than just body mass index (BMI) measures.
The source reports that children who received insufficient sleep consistently showed signs of obesity and overall body fat at all ages.
"Our study found convincing evidence that getting less than recommended amounts of sleep across early childhood is an independent and strong risk factor for obesity and [overall body fat]," said Dr. Elsie Taveras, lead author of the study, in the press release. "Contrary to some published studies, we did not find a particular 'critical period' for the influence of sleep duration on weight gain. Instead, insufficient sleep at any time in early childhood had adverse effects."
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately one third of children and adolescents are overweight or obese. These individuals are at higher risk of developing a number of potentially serious health issues, including prediabetes, cardiovascular disease, bone problems and certain types of cancer.
Obesity is also a risk factor for pediatric sleep apnea, a sleep disorder that affects an estimated 1% to 4% of children. Pediatric sleep apnea is associated with physical and behavioral health issues like stunted growth, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and impaired cognitive functions, so if you have reason to believe that your childe may suffer from it, it’s in your best interest to consult a doctor as soon as possible.