It’s well known that Americans, on average, don’t get enough sleep. What people don’t think about is that many American children aren’t getting enough either, and it may end up making them overweight.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, about 30-percent of preschoolers do not get enough sleep. A new study from the University of Colorado in Boulder into the implications of that lack of sleep led to concerns about childhood obesity.
For the study, a group of preschoolers, all regular afternoon nappers, were deprived of roughly three hours of sleep on one day. They had no afternoon nap and were kept up for about two hours past their normal bedtime before being awakened at their regularly scheduled times the next morning.
During the day of lost sleep, the 3- and 4-year-olds consumed about 20 percent more calories than usual, 25 percent more sugar and 26 percent more carbohydrates, says Assistant Professor Monique LeBourgeois, lead author of the study. The following day, the kids were allowed to sleep as much as they needed. On this “recovery day,” they returned to normal baseline levels of sugar and carbohydrate consumption, but still consumed 14 percent more calories and 23 percent more fat than normal.
“With this study design, children missed a daytime nap and stayed up late, which mimics one way that children lose sleep in the real world,” said LeBourgeois of the Department of Integrative Physiology. “We found that sleep loss increased the dietary intake of preschoolers on both the day of and the day after restricted sleep. These results may shed light on how sleep loss can increase weight gain and why a number of large studies show that preschoolers who do not get enough sleep are more likely to be obese as a child and later in life.
A paper on the study was published in the Journal of Sleep Research.
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