If you’re a parent of a youngster, chances are you’re constantly concerned about the possibility that the little one is a victim of insufficient sleep. Despite best efforts to soothe the child through bedtime stories and teddy bears, you’re not alone if it’s always hard to get your child to sleep soundly and on time. Unfortunately though, if the problem of insufficient slumber is a consistent one, that could mean your child is at a greater risk of becoming obese by the age of seven.
That revelation came after a study about the potentially harmful effects of insufficient sleep was released by Massachusetts’ MassGeneral Hospital for Children. Researchers polled the mothers of 1,046 kids in the state to find out more about their sleeping habits. The interviews happened three times during the earliest phases of the youngsters’ lives; at six months, three years old, and finally, age seven.
In order to get even more data about the kids who were potentially coping with insufficient slumbers, scientists asked the mothers to fill out sleep surveys almost every year. After that, the researchers assigned scores based on the reported duration of sleep. Once the kids reached seven years of age, they were evaluated based on body fat, height and weight, plus a few other measurements such as hip circumference and amount of abdominal fat.
Insufficient sleep that occurred consistently during an individual’s infancy and early childhood was linked to a greater probability he or she would be categorized as obese by age seven. Although there have been other studies about the connection between insufficient sleep and weighing too much, those generally did not look at the effects of not getting enough sleep on an ongoing basis.
It’s important to remember because the study data was driven by sleep reports provided by mothers, they may not be completely accurate. Also, these findings do not prove insufficient sleep causes obesity, just that it may be a contributing factor. Furthermore, the study did not find that kids who got less than the recommended amount of sleep during a particular year of life were more likely than their peers to become obese.
Exactly what constituted “insufficient sleep” in this study was a variable that shifted depending on a child’s age. Specifically, 12 hours per day for kids aged from six months to two years, less than 10 hours per day for three and four year olds, and fewer than nine hours per day from age five to seven. Do your children get enough sleep based on those guidelines?
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