It’s a well-known fact that children need 8 to 10 hours of sleep a night but, disturbingly, evidence is mounting that shows that children who don’t get the proper amount of sleep not only aren’t able to pay attention in class but also are more prone to suffering from obesity.
A study in Birmingham that included 308 children ranging in age from 4 years old to 10 years old found that the children who slept the least were over four times as likely to be overweight.
Much of the problem stems from the body’s own internal clock, scientifically known as circadian rhythm. When a child suffers from lack of sleep their circadian rhythm is affected and conflicting signals are sent to their body, some of which affect digestion and other body systems. This also affects the thyroid and the production of stress hormones which in turn can lead to obesity. A number of other negative factors have also been found including;
· An increased risk of diabetes due to higher blood sugar levels. Scientists believe this is because sleep deprived children tend to eat more starchy and sweet foods.
· Acceleration of the aging process.
· High blood pressure or hypertension as well as depression.
· An increased risk of cancer due to hormonal imbalances.
It’s long been established that approximately 8 hours of sleep per night is necessary for children to be able to grow normally and that children need quite a bit more sleep than adults. Lack of sleep and the resulting obesity problem that it can cause seems to also set up a vicious cycle whereby the obese child is exhausted much of the time and thus gets less sleep. Over time, as their weight increases, their ability to sleep correctly decreases and the obesity problem thus becomes even more dire.
One of the most important factors for children getting the proper amount of sleep is to make sure that, at least 2 to 3 hours before bedtime, they don’t eat anything that has high amounts of sugar or caffeine. Also, it is vital that children eat a highly nutritious diet and unfortunately a lack of proper nutrition seems to be a growing problem.
If your child is suffering from either sleep problems or weight problems there are a number of things that you can do including;
· Make sure that they don’t eat foods high in sugar at least 2 to 3 hours before bedtime.
· Make sure that they are getting enough exercise.
· Try to limit the amount of foods they eat that contain sugar, high fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners.
· Limit all types of food after 6 o’clock in the evening.
· See your family doctor if the problem persists.
The proper amount of sleep is important for many different reasons and, even if your child isn’t suffering from an obesity problem they still need the proper amount of sleep every night. Making sure that they get enough sleep is thus vital to their overall health and well-being.