Infants who sleep less than twelve hours a day may be at risk for pre-school obesity, according to a study published in the April issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. The study was prompted in hopes of targeting ”prevention interventions to help avoid lifetime complications of excess weight”, according to study authors Elsie M. Taveras, MD, MPH, from Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care in Boston, Massachusetts, and colleagues
The study included a three year analysis of 915 mothers-infant pairs, assessing measurements of length, weight and skin fold thickness immediately after birth, at 6 months and again at age 3.
The conclusion was that children who slept less than 12 hours a day, and who watched more than 2 hours of television were twice as likely to be overweight by age 3. This is the first study to examine the effects of short sleep duration in very young children.
Short sleep duration is known to contribute to adult obesity, in response to decreased levels of the hormone leptin, and increased levels of gherlin. Leptin is derived from fat and gherlin is a hormone derived from the stomach. The upset in hormone balance stimulates hunger and leads to increased weight gain.
In order to prevent early problems with weight gain in children, the authors recommend that parents follow guidelines to promote good sleep hygiene in children. Dr, Taveras says, "Our findings suggest that parents may wish to employ proven sleep hygiene techniques, such as removing TV from children's bedrooms, to improve sleep quality and perhaps sleep duration." Other methods include engaging your child in soothing activities, such as bathing, rocking and gentle massage with lotion prior to bedtime.
Overweight children are more likely to experience a lifetime of health problems, including high cholesterol, high blood pressure and later development of Type2 diabetes and even poor self-image.
Insights regarding what we can all do to promote good health and well-being for our children should be taken seriously. As your child grows, you will find that a strong, positive self-image early in childhood will lead to a lifetime of health, happiness and success – you could not offer more to your child.