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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Children and Sleep

We have a triple-whammy on articles regarding kids and sleep. The first is
"Children who sleep less more likely to be overweight".

The researchers used time diaries, in which the parents or caregivers of young children or children old enough to keep diaries themselves recorded all activities -- including bedtime, time asleep and wake time -- over the course of a weekday and weekend day. In analyzing the diaries, they found troubling age-related trends in sleep behavior.

By age 7, children were sleeping on average less than 10 hours on weekdays. By age 14, weekday sleep time fell to 8.5 hours. A full 16 percent of adolescents aged 13 to 18 were found to sleep fewer than seven hours on weekday nights. The National Sleep Foundation recommends children aged 5 to 12 years get 10 to 11 hours of sleep and adolescents get eight to nine hours.

Basically, lack of sleep causes hormonal imbalances that lead to overconsumption of sugary processed carbohydrates, which leads to obesity. If you've read my previous posts on the book Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar, and Survival, you know that 9+ hours per night is important for adults. It is even more important for kids and their growing bodies. Turn off the TV and put the kids to bed.

The next article is "Children's sleep problems can lead to school problems". No surprise here; it is difficult to concentrate when tired. Put the kids to bed and help them learn better in school to increase their chances of a productive career.

So putting your kid to bed at a reasonable time reduces their chances of obesity and increases their learning abilities. It may help keep them from needing weight loss surgery.

Unfortunately, a great majority of parents are blind to their child's weight.

The study of more than 1100 families found that 89 per cent of parents of overweight 5—6 year-olds and 63 per cent of parents of overweight 10—12 year-olds were unaware their child was overweight. It also revealed that 71 per cent of parents of overweight 5—6 year-olds and 43 per cent of parents with overweight 10—12 year-olds did not think their child's weight was a problem.

Perhaps the problem is our perception of normalcy. "Normal" is now overweight rather than truly healthy. I think a big part of the problem is that parents don't want to admit that their child is overweight, so they choose to ignore the issue. The major issue there is that ignoring it won't make it go away.