Sleep-deprived children will snack more: Study

Sleep-deprived children will snack more: Study

Experts studying children’s sleep and eating habits have learned more about a potential cause of childhood obesity.

Sleep-deprived children tend to eat more calories the next day, researchers have found. And some of those extra calories come from less healthy snacks or sugar-filled treats.

“When children lost sleep, they ate a total of 74 extra calories a day, which was driven by an increase of 96 calories a day in side foods such as crisps and chocolate, potentially increasing the risk of obesity,” said Jill Haszard, a biostatistician at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand.

“Such a difference could easily explain why sleep deprivation increases the risk of obesity in children,” she said in a university press release.

The findings were independent of any changes in sedentary time and physical activity, which could explain why the children ate more.

For this study, researchers analyzed data from the Daily Rest, Eating and Activity Monitoring (DREAM) study. It included 105 children between the ages of 8 and 12 with different body sizes. About 61% were considered normal weight. The rest were overweight or obese.

Participants went to bed an hour earlier for one week, had a week of normal sleep, and then went to bed an hour later for a week.

All wore a wrist device that continuously monitored their behavior, including every minute spent sleeping, sedentary time, light physical activity, and moderate to vigorous physical activity.

Twice a week, the children were also asked what food and drink they had consumed in the previous 24 hours.

The study found that the 82 children with complete data lost 48 minutes of sleep per night, but also woke up eight minutes less on average. Additionally, waking time included 31 minutes sitting; 21 minutes of light activity and four minutes of vigorous activity.

Overall, the tired children ate an average of 74 more calories per day and 96 more in treats. Fewer calories come from staple foods important for a healthy diet.

After accounting for the increased energy needed to stay awake longer during the day, the changes were associated with us eating an average of 63 more calories per day.

The researchers noted a stronger relationship between sleep loss and calorie intake for foods eaten in the evening and high-calorie foods eaten for pleasure rather than health. While increased activity led to the consumption of more healthy foods, increased sedentary time prompted more eating in the evening.

“Together, these experimental findings show that changes in dietary intake, not physical activity restrictions, explain why sleep deprivation increases the risk of childhood overweight and obesity,” said DREAM study leader Rachael Taylor, also from the University of Otago.

“While improving our sleep isn’t usually the first thing that comes to mind when we think about managing our weight, it just might be a good choice,” Taylor said in the release.

The researchers said more study will be needed to determine whether sleep is a good intervention for improving diet and weight over time.

“Finding ways to improve healthy sleep habits, including reading or taking a bath before bed, can help children get the recommended 10 to 11 hours of sleep per night and reduce the risk of overweight and obesity,” Haszard said.

The results were presented at the International Congress on Obesity, 18-22 October, in Melbourne, Australia. Findings presented at medical meetings are considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Teens who don’t get enough sleep can consume 4.5 extra pounds of sugar during the school year

More information:
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on childhood obesity.

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