Food and Behaviour Research

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19 May 2014 - MedicalXpress - Chronic insufficient sleep increases obesity, overall body fat in children

One of the most comprehensive studies of the potential link between reduced sleep and childhood obesity finds compelling evidence that children who consistently received less than the recommended hours of sleep during infancy and early childhood had increases in both obesity and in adiposity or overall body fat at age 7

FAB RESEARCH COMMENT:

The research article will be published in the June issue of Pediatrics
"Our study found convincing evidence that getting less than recommended amounts of sleep across early childhood is an independent and strong risk factor for obesity and adiposity," says Elsie Taveras, MD, MPH, chief of General Pediatrics at Mass General Hospital for Children and lead author of the Pediatrics paper. "Contrary to some published studies, we did not find a particular 'critical period' for the influence of sleep duration on weight gain. Instead, insufficient sleep at any time in early childhood had adverse effects." 

Overall, children with the lowest sleep scores had the highest levels of all body measurements reflecting obesity and adiposity, including abdominal fat which is considered to be particularly hazardous. 

While more research is needed to understand how sleep duration affects body composition, Taveras notes, potential mechanisms could include the influence of sleep on hormones that control hunger and satiety; the disruptions of circadian rhythms or possible common genetic pathways involved in both sleep and metabolism; poor ability to make good decisions on food choices and eating behaviors caused by sleep deprivation, or household routines that lead to both reduced sleep and increased food consumption. Insufficient sleep may also lead to increased opportunities to eat, especially if time is spent in sedentary activities, such as TV viewing, when snacking and exposure to ads for unhealthy foods are common.