July 19, 2017

Lack of Z’s Can Lead to Increased Lbs. in Kids

How too little sleep and weight gain are related

The end of July means it’s almost back-to-school time

During these last hectic weeks of summer, you may be busy shopping for supplies and crossing items off your to-do list with your keiki. 

Another big concern once all the summer sleepovers are done: getting kids back into a routine for bedtime and sleep.

Healthy sleep habits increase kids’ concentration and improve school performance, while inadequate sleep in children can lead to behavioral problems. 

However, most of us don’t think about how lack of sleep relates to the problem of childhood obesity.

Sleep deprivation is already linked to obesity in adults, but few research studies previously had existed for kids.

A team at the University College of London found a strong association between short sleep in children and higher food responsiveness, even in kids as young as 5 years old. Specifically, the children who slept less displayed an increased desire for high-calorie, high-sugar unhealthy items (and yes, this category would include local favorites such as spam musubi and malasadas). 

Shorter sleep also correlated with higher BMI (Body Mass Index) in children. Higher BMIs put kids at risk for diabetes and an increased chance that they will develop obesity as adults. 

Based on these findings, parents may be asking themselves, “What can we do to ensure our keiki are sleeping enough for optimal weight and health?” 

Here are some tips:

  • Make sure kids get a minimum of one hour of physical activity daily to burn off excess energy – it’ll be easier for them to settle down at night.

  • Start waking your keiki at the same time every morning before school starts. Even if they don’t sleep enough for a day or two, their bodies will adjust quickly. Remember, most preschoolers need 10-13 hours of shut-eye nightly, elementary-schoolers 9-11 hours, and teens 8-10 hours.

  • Eliminate screen time two hours prior to scheduled bedtime. Sleep experts counsel that screen time of any kind (iPhone, iPad, laptops, TV) can interfere with sleep.

  • Aim to make the evening meal well-balanced and protein-focused, while encouraging intake of vegetables and fruits. Avoid simple starches and high-sugar treats, as tempting as they may be. Doing this will help young bodies stay nourished all night with foods that are critical for growth, brain development and healthy weight maintenance.