A study from MassGeneral Hospital for Children, published in Pediactrics this week, found that chronic sleep deprivation in infancy and early childhood greatly increases a child’s risk of obesity and overall body fat later in life.
There are few studies which have looked at the effect of constant sleep deprivation over time and used measures other than just body mass index (BMI). This study followed-up with children from 6 months until 7 years old, gathering information through in-person interviews with the mother and routine questionnaires. At the age of seven, children with the lowest sleep scores had the highest levels of all body measurements (which included height, weight, total body fat, abdominal fat, lean body mass, and waist and hip circumferences) reflecting obesity and adiposity (the storage of fat).
"Curtailed sleep was defined as less than 12 hours per day from ages 6 months to 2 years, less than 10 hours per day for ages 3 and 4, and less than 9 hours per day from age 5 to 7. Based on the mothers’ reports at each age, individual children were assigned a sleep score covering the entire study period ‘ from zero, which represented the highest level of sleep curtailment, to 13, indicating no reports of insufficient sleep," reads a press release.
"While we need more trials to determine if improving sleep leads to reduced obesity, right now we can recommend that clinicians teach young patients and their parents ways to get a better night’s sleep ‘ including setting a consistent bedtime, limiting caffeinated beverages late in the day and cutting out high-tech distractions in the bedroom," says Dr. Elsie Taveras, chief of General Pediactrics at MGHfC and lead study author. "All of these help promote good sleep habits, which also may boost alertness for school or work, improve mood and enhance the overall quality of life."
-Jessica Harding, associate web editor