Childhood obesity often stems from a combination of sources including fast foods, sugary drinks, inactivity and super-sized portions.
New research, however, suggests part of the blame may lie with the simple matter of turning out the lights and going to sleep.
An investigation conducted by Temple University scientists is the first to examine the impact of sleep on children’s eating behaviors by manipulating the amount of sleep that study participants were able to get.
The study is published in the journal Pediatrics.
Researchers followed 37 children, ages 8 to 11; 27 percent of whom were overweight or obese. For the first week of the study, children were asked to sleep their typical amount.
Next, during the second week, the group was randomized to either reduce or lengthen their sleep time; participants completed the opposite sleep schedule during the third and final week of the study.
The results were conclusive: During the week that the children increased their sleep, they reported consuming an average of 134 fewer calories per day, weighed a half pound less, and had lower fasting levels of leptin when compared to the week of decreased sleep.
Leptin is a hunger-regulating hormone that is also highly correlated with the amount of adipose tissue.
“Findings from this study suggest that enhancing school-age children’s sleep at night could have important implications for prevention and treatment of obesity,” said co-author and associate professor Chantelle Hart, Ph.D.
“The potential role of sleep should be further explored.”
As a result of the findings, Hart is now working on a study using a brief behavioral intervention to get kids to increase their sleep to determine if there are significant changes in eating, activity behaviors and weight status.
While it is still early in the testing, Hart hints that the intervention looks promising:
“Given all of its documented benefits, in many ways, you can’t lose in promoting a good night’s sleep.”
Source: Temple University