Subjects: Behavioral health
School-aged kids that get more sleep—even if it’s “catch-up” sleep on weekends—are less likely to be obese and have metabolic abnormalities, according to the results of a new study.
To reach these conclusions, David Gozal of the University of Chicago, and colleagues monitored sleep patterns for one week using wrist actigraphs in 308 children who were between 4 and 10 years old. In a subset of these kids, the researchers also obtained fasting blood levels of glucose, lipids, insulin, and C-reactive protein.
Overall, the kids averaged about 8 hours of sack-time per night, far less than the 9-10 hours pediatricians recommend for this age group.
More importantly, the subset of the kids who got the least amount of sleep and also the most night-to-night variability in sleep duration were 4.4 times more likely to be obese than those who got the most sleep. Kids in the former category were more also more likely to have abnormal blood levels of insulin, low-density lipoprotein, and C-reactive protein.
Kids who “caught-up” on sleep on weekends did better than those who didn’t, according to Gozal’s group. Although they were more than twice as likely to be obese as those who achieved high levels of sleep without the need for “catch-up,” they were still far less likely to be obese.
“In other words, the longer and more-stable sleep duration is, the less likely a child is to manifest (obesity and) metabolic dysfunction,” the researchers wrote.
Of course, the correlations demonstrated in this study don’t prove causal links between sleep duration and weight or metabolism function, nor do they prove that sleep-deprived kids could benefit by getting more shut-eye. Even so, the scientists mentioned that sleep deprivation could be linked to obesity via scientifically proven alterations in the physiology of appetite-controlling substances like ghrelin and leptin.
In addition to its possible benefit on weight and metabolism, “optimal sleep is associated with better attention, better ability to learn, and better memory,” Gozal added in an interview.
The authors recommended that the parents should be informed about the relation between longer, more consistent sleep and its potential impact on obesity and metabolic abnormalities.
The write-up appears in Pediatrics.