Do you spend weekends rousing your children from bed to attend ballet, swimming, gymnastics, Boy Scouts and basketball?
While enrichment is seen as a positive activity for kids, one of the more derided weekend pastimes may actually be even more beneficial for school-aged kids: sleep. A study published in the medical journal Pediatrics suggests that playing sleep catch-up at the weekend, arguably better for parents than sitting around in an ice-cold car waiting for mini-hockey players or making small-talk with other parents they wouldn’t be caught dead near in virtually any other life situation, actually has significant health benefits for tykes as well.
According to the study of just over 300 kids between the ages of four and 10, the obese participants “slept fewer hours and more irregular sleep patterns than their slimmer peers.” Kids participating in the study got an average of eight hours of sleep a night, but nine-and-a-half to ten hours is the recommended amount. Conditions co-morbid with obesity, not surprisingly, also dropped in kids who slept more:
…the risk of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular problems are slim to none, according to lead researcher Dr. David Gozal, chair of pediatrics at Comer Children’s Hospital at the University of Chicago.
“But, as the amount of sleep became shorter and the regularity of sleep became less organized, the risk for obesity increased,” he said.
Gozal theorized that the body compensates for sleep deficits by consuming more food, and, acknowledging the possibility of a “crazy short sleep schedule” during the week, advised allowing children to make up sleepy-time shortfall on the weekends. He says:
“Our society thinks of sleep as a commodity that can be sacrificed easily,” he said. “We look at people that sleep less as if they were heroes. Better education of parents and children about getting regular sleep, and not sacrificing it for TV, etc., would lead to a healthier society.”