Short nighttime sleep among young children associated with obesity

This content was created by the National Sleep Foundation

Authors of a recent report published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine are concerned that "...evidence is accumulating from cross-sectional population studies to support a robust contemporaneous relationship between shortened sleep duration and unhealthy weight status in children and adolescents." Using existing national, longitudinal and panel survey data collected for children and adolescents, Janice F. Bell, Ph.D., M.P.H., of the University of Washington, Seattle and Frederick J. Zimmerman, Ph.D., of the University of California, Los Angeles, studied 1,930 children ages 0 to 13 years, with data collected on the same children in 1997 and again in 2002 (follow-up). The authors found that, at follow-up, 33 percent of the younger cohort and 36 percent of the older cohort were overweight or obese. The authors interpreted their findings "…suggest that there is a critical window prior to age 5 years when nighttime sleep may be important for subsequent obesity status." Caregivers can take comfort in the fact that sleep duration is a modifiable risk factor with important implications for obesity prevention and treatment. The report authors also reminded caregivers that napping is not a substitute for sufficient nighttime sleep. Learn more about sleep and children and check out the report.