Sleep Deprivation May Cause Child Obesity

Obesity is perhaps the fastest-growing childhood epidemic. Kids are getting bigger, for a variety of reasons. Our eating habits, as a culture, are changing dramatically. We tend to serve larger portions, and foods that are higher in fat than in years past. In addition, distractions from television to video games are keeping more and more children inside, even on those sunny days when in yesteryear they might be running around the yard playing tag.

What you may not realize, however, is that there is another factor in childhood obesity that may originate much earlier. Your baby may actually be at a higher risk of developing childhood obesity if she doesn’t get enough sleep.

That’s right. The amount of sleep your baby gets can actually affect whether or not he’ll become obese as a child.

A study from February of 2011 looked at a number of factors for childhood obesity. Researchers examined 300 children from ages 4 to 10. These children all averaged about eight hours of sleep each night, which is significantly lower than the recommended amount. And, rather than sleeping longer on the weekends, children that were obese were more likely to sleep just those eight hours. Children that were not obese tended to catch up on some of that sleep they missed during the week.

Researchers suggest that getting enough sleep may affect the way that your body uses calories that are contained in food. Children that don’t get as much sleep find that their bodies aren’t nearly as efficient, and wind up becoming obese.

So, what’s the connection with your baby? Sleep habits develop early. If your baby isn’t getting the amount of sleep that she needs, chances are she’s not going to get it when she gets older, either. Infants should get about 18 hours of sleep each day, and even toddlers or preschoolers should get from 12 to 14 hours each day.

If your hectic schedule is impacting your baby’s sleep, you need to take some time to let him catch up at least a little bit on the weekends, and encourage your child to get the right amount of sleep each night as he gets older.