Monday, August 10, 2009
Image by studentofrhythm.
It has been reported that up to 16% of children have a hard time falling asleep, resulting in shorter sleep duration. That might not seem like such a big deal, but an increasing number of studies report that decreased sleep time is a risk factor for obesity. Although the idea is still quite controversial, it is has been suggested that insufficient sleep is likely to affect the hormones that regulate hunger, resulting in increased food intake, and eventually obesity. Reduced sleep time has also been associated with reduced cognitive performance. So in general, we want to make sure that kids are getting enough sleep, but how can we do that?
According to a new study (and common sense), increased physical activity may be one way to help kids get more sleep. In this new study, published in Archives of Diseases in Childhood, Dr G.M. Nixon and colleagues examined the relationship between physical activity and sleep quality in a group of 519 children. Physical activity was measured by accelerometer, which is the gold standard for large field studies such as this. What did they find? The more active children were, the less time it took them to fall asleep. In contrast, the more time that children spent being sedentary, the longer it took them to fall asleep. This is important, since the time it took to fall asleep was a strong predictor of total sleep duration.
When these findings are combined with other research, they suggest that sedentary behavior, reduced sleep quality, and obesity may be a vicious cycle. When children are not sufficiently active they are likely to get less sleep. This can result in further reductions in physical activity, increased caloric intake and weight gain. This leads to even worse sleep quality and duration, and the whole cycle begins anew. All the more reason to keep kids active (and minimize screen-time) right from the start!
Nixon, G., Thompson, J., Han, D., Becroft, D., Clark, P., Robinson, E., Waldie, K., Wild, C., Black, P., & Mitchell, E. (2009). Falling asleep: the determinants of sleep latency. Archives of Disease in Childhood DOI: 10.1136/adc.2009.157453
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