Short Sleep Duration as a Risk Factor for Childhood Obesity


Dr Swati Y. Bhave    31 October 2017

Childhood obesity is a global public health problem that has increased at an alarming rate more so in the low and middle income countries. According to the WHO in 2015 the number of overweight children under the age of five globally was estimated to be over 42 million. Almost half of all overweight children under 5 lived in Asia and one quarter lived in Africa. The causes of obesity are variable genetic lack of physical activity unhealthy eating patterns or a combination of these factors. Addressing obesity assumes importance given that overweight and obese children are likely to be obese adults and more likely to develop noncommunicable diseases NCDs like diabetes and cardiovascular diseases at a younger age. Several studies have described short sleep duration as a risk factor for obesity including childhood obesity. Excess carbohydrate consumption has been suggested as a possible mechanism due to increased hunger through dysregulated hormonal mechanisms that involve decreased leptin satiety hormone suppresses appetite and increased ghrelin hunger hormone levels. Lack of sleep disturbs the balance between these hormones. This association between short sleep duration and risk of obesity in children was demonstrated in a study published in the February 2017 issue of the journal Sleep. Researchers examined the association between estimated sleep duration and macronutrient intake as percentages of total energy among Mexican American MA 9 11 year old children. The intake of carbohydrates decreased with longer sleep duration. Children who slept for longer duration ate fewer calories from carbohydrates and a higher percentage from fat especially from PUFAs. This study highlights the role of sleep in the prevention of obesity emphasizes the need to inculcate good sleep hygiene in children. Here are a few tips to do so Set a regular and consistent sleep schedule. Remove TV and computers from the child s bedroom. Avoid caffeinated products close to bedtime. Plan up to 1 hour of quiet time before bed such as reading a book. Make sure that the child does not go to bed hungry.

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