If kids get fewer hours of sleep, they may start packing on the pounds, researchers say in a new study. In fact, each additional hour of sleep per night was associated with a 63% reduction in body mass index (BMI) for children age 3 to 7 years.
Conversely, when children got more shut-eye, they had a reduction in BMI and a significant drop in their risk of being overweight, the researchers found.
The study found the children had an average of 11 hours of sleep per day. However, those who consistently slept less, had an increased risk of having a higher BMI by the time they turned 7 years old.
On the other hand, among 3- to 5-year-olds, each extra hour of sleep per night was linked to a 51% reduction in BMI and a 61% drop in the risk of being overweight or obese by the age of 7.
Why? The researchers say the causes may be behavioral or hormonal.
- For example, less time sleeping may leave more time for snacking and less time for exercise.
- Conversely, some studies have shown that sleep deprivation leads to increases in ghrelin, which drives appetite, and decreases in leptin, which suppresses diet.
The findings emphasize the importance of good sleep habits in children, along with exercise and good nutrition.
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