More weekend sleep may equal leaner children: study

Tue Jan 25, 2011 10:04pm EST
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - A lack of shuteye over the weekend could be piling extra weight onto U.S. children, a sixth of whom are already obese, a study says.

The research, published in Pediatrics, followed the sleeping habits of 300 children between 4 to 10 years of age for a week and found that obese children slept fewer hours, and had more irregular sleep patterns, than their slimmer peers.

"We think the direction of the arrow is you sleep less, you eat more, you exercise less because you're tired, and therefore you gain more weight," said David Gozal from the Corner Children's Hospital and University of Chicago, who led the study.

"Over the last 50 years we have seen an increase in obesity rates also for children, and in parallel there have been decreases in the amount of sleep that children get."

Gozal and his team did acknowledge their study wasn't designed to prove that less weekend slumber packed on the weight, but noted that other animal and human studes show sleep can also influence weight.

To check for links between increased weight and decreased sleep, researchers had the children wear a small device that measured their sleep at night.

While children on average got about 8 hours of sleep a night regardless of weight, those who were obese got some 20 minutes less on weekends, and it wasn't as regular as among normal-weight children.

Eight hours is still less than they should be getting, according to the U.S. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, which recommends at least 9 hours for school-age children and adolescents.

Repaying the "sleep debt" over the weekend did appear to help, Gozal said.   Continued...