Obesity and Sleep: Insufficient Sleep Linked to Obesity in Kids

January 24, 2011 Updated: October 1, 2015

The study recommends that children get between 9.5 and 10 hours of sleep a night. (Photos.com)
The study recommends that children get between 9.5 and 10 hours of sleep a night. (Photos.com)
Kids who get more sleep on the weekends may be less likely to develop obesity.

Researchers with the University of Kentucky and the University of Chicago placed a special wrist device on 308 children between the ages of 4 and 10 and tracked their sleep patterns for a week.

Prior to the study, the children were classified as being normal, overweight, or obese based on their body-mass index.

Obese children’s sleep duration was shorter and more variable on weekends compared to school days, and they tended to catch up less on their sleep than other kids.

Overweight children had a mixed sleep pattern.

In the study, there was a correlation between children who slept between 8 and 10 hours per night and obesity. Those who slept that much were 3.45 to 4.9 times more likely to develop obesity compared with kids who slept more.

The study recommends that children get between 9.5 and 10 hours sleep a night.

Lead researcher Dr. David Gozal, the head of pediatrics at Comer Children’s Hospital at the University of Chicago, told HealthDay News, “As the amount of sleep became shorter and the regularity of sleep became less organized, the risk for obesity increased.”

He noted that in other studies, researchers found those who get less sleep have high blood sugar and crave sweets and fatty foods. He added that a lack of sleep makes it harder for one to lose weight.

“All this would suggest that sleep is an important regulator of metabolism,” Gozal told HealthDay. “If we abuse our sleep by not sleeping enough, then we are likely to pay the price by being heavy and being at risk for cardiovascular and all the other metabolic complications.”

Gozal said that in society, a more intense and demanding pace has developed, which leads to a reduction in sleep among children. Other factors, like television and video games, have contributed to their lack of sleep.

The study was published online on Jan. 24 in the journal Pediatrics.