The links between lack of sleep and weight gain have been well documented. The prevailing scientific thought is that sleep duration impacts hormones that control hunger. The less sleep you get, the more hungry you will be. Scientists in charge of a new study, however, wanted to take that one step further, however, and find out if lack of sleep during infant and toddler years was a predictor of weight problems later.
Researchers at MassGeneral Hospital for Children in Boston studied more than a thousand children between the ages of six months and seven years, getting annual reports from parents on their child’s total sleep amount, both from nighttime sleep and daytime naps. They also collected information on height and weight.
The scientists found that when the kids turned getting less-than-recommended amounts of sleep was associated with a higher body mass index (BMI) and higher amounts of overall and midsection fat. Belly fat is considered the most dangerous weight gain area.
After adjusting for societal factors, a seven-year-old who got less than 12 hours of sleep between the ages of six months and two years had 36-percent higher odds of being obese than a child who got more sleep as a small child.
Researchers say more work is needed to determine a true cause and effect, as they can’t be 100% sure that the lack of sleep caused the weight gain and not some other unknown factor.