Study says children who get adequate sleep may eat less

The Huffington Post reports “getting adequate sleep may not just” help control attention and behavioral problems in children – “a small new study” published in the journal Pediatrics “suggests it could also affect the amount they eat.” The Post says the three-week study involved 37 children “between ages 8 and 11, about a quarter of whom were obese or overweight.” During the week the children who slept more “consumed 134 fewer calories a day, on average, and also weighed half a pound less than the week when they slept less.”

HealthDay reports that study author Chantelle Hart, an associate professor of public health at Temple University’s Center for Obesity Research and Education in Philadelphia, says “the next step is looking at whether getting more sleep over a longer period might have even more dramatic effect on weight.”

She goes on to say, “Achieving a good night’s sleep during childhood should be explored as an important strategy to enhance prevention and intervention approaches for obesity,” she said.

Another expert supports that approach.

“The evidence is incredibly strong and consistent that a short list of lifestyle factors has a phenomenal influence on weight, health and even gene expression,” said Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center in New Haven, Conn.

The list includes physical activity, eating a healthy diet, not smoking, getting enough sleep and reducing stress, he said.

“The power of lifestyle as medicine is not adequately appreciated,” Katz said. “As this study shows, the best way to improve diet and weight may be by improving sleep.”

The link between sleep and weight was well-known already. “But I am aware of no other study showing as clearly that with a willful change in sleep pattern comes an impressive, concurrent change in appetite, hormonal balance and food intake,” Katz said. “How well and how much our kids sleep may well influence how well and how much our kids eat.”

In the United States, more than one third of children and teens are overweight or obese, which puts them at risk of serious health problems in adulthood.

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