Food and Behaviour Research

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9 June 2014 - ScienceDaily - Parent and child must get enough sleep to protect against child obesity

Is sleep one of your most important family values? A new study suggests that it should be, reporting that more parental sleep is related to more child sleep, which is related to decreased child obesity. And the effects of sleeplessness go beyond just being tired the next day

Is sleep one of your most important family values? A new University of Illinois study suggests that it should be, reporting that more parental sleep is related to more child sleep, which is related to decreased child obesity.

"Parents should make being well rested a family value and a priority. Sleep routines in a family affect all the members of the household, not just children; we know that parents won't get a good night's sleep unless and until their preschool children are sleeping," said Barbara H. Fiese, director of the U of I's Family Resiliency Center and Pampered Chef Endowed Chair.

And the effects of sleeplessness go beyond just being tired the next day. Studies show that moms, dads, and their children are likely to gain weight as they lose sleep, she said.

Although the mechanism hasn't yet been identified, Fiese said that restorative sleep is thought to help regulate our metabolism. Her recent study showed that sleep is a protective factor in lowering the incidence of obesity in parents and being overweight in preschool children.

In the study, socioeconomic characteristics were assessed in relation to protective routines and prevalence of being obese or overweight for 337 preschool children and their parents. The routines assessed in parents included adequate sleep (over seven hours) and family mealtime routine. The four protective routines assessed in children were adequate sleep (10 or more hours per night), family mealtime routine, limiting screen-viewing time to less than two hours a day, and not having a bedroom TV.

The only significant individual protective factor against obesity or overweight in children was getting adequate sleep. Children who did not get enough sleep had a greater risk for being overweight than children who engaged in at least three of the protective routines regularly, even after controlling for parents' BMI and socio-demographic characteristics, Fiese said.

But the researchers also learned that the number of hours a parent sleeps is related to how much sleep children are getting, so that a parent's sleep has an effect on the likelihood that their children will be overweight or obese