A new study conducted among more than 177,000 students suggests that insufficient sleep duration is associated with an unhealthy lifestyle among children and adolescents.
Results show that insufficient sleep duration was associated with unhealthy dietary habits such as skipping breakfast, fast-food consumption and consuming sweets regularly. Insufficient sleep duration also was associated with increased screen time and being overweight/obese.
“Approximately 40 percent of schoolchildren in the study slept less than recommended,” said senior author Labros Sidossis, PhD, from of the Department of Kinesiology and Health at Rutgers University. “Insufficient sleeping levels were associated with poor dietary habits, increased screen time and obesity in both genders.”
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that children 6 to 12 years of age should sleep nine to 12 hours on a regular basis to promote optimal health. Teenagers 13 to 18 years of age should sleep eight to 10 hours.
“The most surprising finding was that aerobic fitness was associated with sleep habits,” said Sidossis. “In other words, better sleep habits were associated with better levels of aerobic fitness. We can speculate that adequate sleep results in higher energy levels during the day. Therefore, children who sleep well are maybe more physically active during the day and hence have higher aerobic capacity.”
The authors noted that the results support the development of interventions to help students improve sleep duration.
“Insufficient sleep duration among children constitutes an understated health problem in Westernized societies,” Sidossis said. “Taking into consideration these epidemiologic findings, parents, teachers and health professionals should promote strategies emphasizing healthy sleeping patterns for school-aged children in terms of quality and duration.”