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Hitting the Snooze Button Could Be a Healthy Habit

The Journal of Pediatrics recently released a study that suggests young children who do not get regular sleeping hours may have a higher risk of developing obesity. 

The study included over 1,000 children, ranging in age from 6 months to 7 years, and concluded that “chronic sleep curtailment” (i.e., not get enough Zzzs) resulted in higher “adiposity” (fancy word for “fat”) in mid-childhood. 

To get the full dose of academic lingo and scientific calculations, check out the entire study here.

While the research is not yet determined as fact, it does bring up a further contributor to the childhood obesity epidemic, one that goes beyond the obvious diet and exercise.

So, how much does sleep factor into the development of obesity? 
We did a little digging around and found some interesting info about the importance of sleep.

Note: feel free to use these as credible excuses to hit the snooze button.

sleep guide

Sleep & Childhood Obesity: Not a New Connection

In case you think the recent study mentioned above is making a wild claim, you should know that studies connecting sleep and childhood obesity have been underway in full force for the past decade.

These studies have found that reduced hours of sleep or interrupted sleep patterns, result in higher risk for childhood obesity. The answer we want to find out here at TGMC is: why? How come sleep makes such a big difference? Here’s what we’ve found:

Sleep & Mentality

It’s simple: sleep directly affects the brain, which directly affects a person’s mood and mentality. Forbes recently published an article linking lack of sleep to dying brain cells. While that’s a bit scary and extreme, sleep really does make a huge difference in day-time behavior for kids. We love what Dr. Marc Weissbluth, author of Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, has to say about it:

"Sleep is the power source that keeps your mind alert and calm. Every night and at every nap, sleep recharges the brain's battery. Sleeping well increases brainpower just as weight lifting builds stronger muscles, because sleeping well increases your attention span and allows you to be physically relaxed and mentally alert at the same time.” 

Sleep & Social Behavior

Getting a good amount of sleep (which varies by age, check out the chart) results in what is called Optimal Alertness. This state of mind helps a child engage better with his or her surroundings, retain lessons and soak up learning, and socially interact with ease and comfort.

Hint: how can you tell if a child is optimally alert? Do the bright eye test. If a child is looking around with curiosity, with those wide-eyed expressions typically associated with youngsters, then it’s a pretty good indicator he or she has had a good nap that day. 

Sleep & Physical Well-Being

Since we are talking about obesity, this is the biggie. But, it does not stand alone.

In fact, the physical repercussions of not getting enough sleep are directly tied to the mental and social repercussions. If a child is not mentally alert and socially engaged, it will be much harder for him or her to be active. Kids love to play (surprise, surprise) but a sleepy kid would much rather watch tv or play video games.

Also, sleep deprivation has shown to create a hormone imbalance that increases hunger, specifically for fatty and carb-saturated foods.

How to Help Our Kids Catch More Zzzs

While getting your youngin’ to get more sleep will really come down to the individual child and how he or she winds down (i.e., white noise, mommy-provided back rubs, a specific blanket, etc.) there a few tips that might help you out:

  • Exercise during the day can make for uninterrupted sleep at night
  • Create a routine
  • Environment matters (temperature, bedding, lighting)
  • Don’t give up on naptime! (until age 5)
  • Watch for common disorders (night terrors, sleep apnea) and get help from your child’s physician

We’re all about incentives here at TGMC and rewarding positive rest and sleep behavior/habits deserves some recognition! Check out the printable Recharge Achievement Awards by Raising Fit Kids on WebMD.


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