A new study suggests that part of the solution to the childhood obesity epidemic in the U.S. may be kids sleeping more.
That doesn’t mean sleep is the answer to the U.S. obesity epidemic, but it might be one part of the solution, according to study author Chantelle Hart, an associate professor of public health at Temple University’s Center for Obesity Research and Education in Philadelphia.
The three-week study at Temple University’s Center for Obesity Research and Education in Philadelphia involced of 37 children, aged 8 to 11. Multiple studies have suggested that lack of sleep can lead to weight gain in adults. This study suggests similar results for children — that increasing sleep could decrease food intake and improve weight regulation.
For this study, published online Nov. 4 and in the December print issue of the journal Pediatrics, scientists started by letting the children sleep their usual amount, about 9.5 hours, for a week. Then they randomly assigned the kids to either boost their time in bed by 1.5 hours or decrease it by 1.5 hours. After a week, the groups swapped sleep routines.
Ten of the children (27 percent) were overweight or obese at the start of the study. The children who added sleep ate less, an average 134 fewer calories a day, and shed about half a pound on average and had lower morning levels of the hormone leptin. Leptin has been tied to appetite regulation.
The researchers say the next step is looking at whether getting more sleep over a longer period might have even more dramatic effect on weight.