Something as simple adequate shuteye, even if it's only "catch-up" sleep on weekends or holidays could be the key to tackling obesity and other metabolic problems among children, finds a new study.
Previous studies have indicated that sleep short falls can have a negative impact on a child's social and emotional well-being and school performance.
Now, a new study finds that insufficient sleep in children not only elevates their risk of being overweight but also makes them vulnerable to other health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and even cancer.
Lead author of the study, Dr. David Gozal, physician-in-chief, for the Department of Pediatrics at Comer Children's Hospital at the University of Chicago, stated, "If you want your child to be happy and to succeed, prioritize sleep.
"Optimal sleep is associated with better attention, better ability to learn, and better memory.
"There are a lot of advantages about sticking to a regular bedtime routine with appropriate time being allowed for the child to sleep."
The study found that children who had nine to 10 hours of shuteye were in the least likely to be obese or have unhealthy blood markers.
In a bid to assess the relationship between sleep, overweight status and the future risk for diabetes and cardiovascular problems, the researchers conducted a short study.
They recruited 308 healthy children between ages four to 10 years from public schools in Louisville, Ky.
The sleeping patterns of the kids were monitored through special wrist-band devices they wore for a week.
In addition, body mass index (BMI), glucose, insulin, triglycerides and cholesterol levels, which are markers for chronic health conditions like diabetes and heart problems, were factored.
Findings of the study
It was noted that on an average, the kids in the study slept eight hours a night, which was less than the recommended amount of nine or more hours of daily sleep.
The study found that children who had nine to 10 hours of shuteye were least likely to be obese or have unhealthy blood markers.
On the other hand, kids with the shortest sleep duration and erratic sleep schedules were at a significantly higher risk of being obese and having an unhealthy metabolic profile.
In addition, the researchers found that kids who catch up on sleep during the weekend cut their obesity risk.
However, it was observed that sleep deprived kids were less likely to make up on lost sleep on the weekends.
Dr. David Gozal stated, "Good sleep routines and sleeping the right amount is the best healthy proposition.
"In other words, the longer and more-stable sleep duration is, the less likely a child is to manifest metabolic dysfunction.”
The study, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health has been published in the journal 'Pediatrics.'