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Sleep Duration Linked To Childhood Obesity


New research suggests that sleep-deprived kids are more likely to be "tempted by food," Reuters Health reported.

British researchers found that found that 5 year olds who got less than 11 hours of shut eye at night were more responsive to food, compared to those who slept longer.  Children who slept for a shorter amount of time also had a higher body mass index (BMI).

"There is now accumulating evidence in both children and adults to suggest that short or insufficient sleep increases reward-driven ('hedonic') eating," Laura McDonald, lead author of the study and a researcher at University College London, told Reuters Health.

For the study, researchers collected and analyzed data from more than 1,000 five year olds, Lighthouse News Daily reported. Nighttime sleep duration was calculated from parent-reported bedtime and wake time, and categorized as shorter, adequate or longer according to age-specific reference values. The study participant's food responsiveness was also assessed.

Researchers found that kids who slept for less than 11 hours had a food responsiveness of 2.53 on a scale of 1 to 5. Children who slept 11 to 12 hours had a food responsiveness of 2.36, and those who got at least 12 hours of sleep at night had 2.35.

"In children who do not get enough sleep at night, limiting exposure to palatable food cues in the home might be helpful at preventing overconsumption," McDonald said.

Researchers found no link between "sleep duration and whether kids were still willing to eat when they were full," Reuters Health reported.

Emerson Wickwire, director of the Insomnia Program at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, told Reuters Health that the study shows that duration of sleep is a risk factor for obesity. Few studies address the relationship between habitual sleep duration and adiposity.

"The current study suggests a new potential explanation (hedonic eating) for weight gain among children who sleep less . . . in other words, kids in the study who slept less were more susceptible to unhealthy food cues in the environment," Wickwire, who was not involved in the study,  told Reuters Health.

The findings are detailed in the International Journal of Obesity.

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