As American parents grapple with an obesity epidemic that is increasingly affecting young children, surprising new research shows that young children who don’t get enough nighttime sleep may be predisposed to being overweight or obese as much as five years later. The new research published in the medical journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine supports the idea that how much nighttime sleep a child gets, before the age of five, will affect weight gain years later. Children who got less sleep before the age of five were found to have a higher chance of being obese or overweight later in life.
Interestingly, the amount of daytime naps that children below the age of five had did not affect, either positively or negatively, their future weight status. This may be because nighttime sleep is physiologically different from quick naps.
So how much sleep should your child get?
For children above the age of one the following are some rough guidelines that can be used:
Ages 1 to 3 years: These children should get 12 to 14 hours of sleep each night, plus 1 to 3 hour daily naps. Interestingly, toddlers on average only get about 10 hours of sleep a day, meaning that many toddlers are sleep deprived.
Ages 3 to 6 years old: These children should get 10 to 12 hours of sleep per night, also most children by the age of five give up daytime naps altogether.
Ages 7 to 12 years old: These children should get 10 to 11 hours of sleep per day. Despite this sleep requirement, children in this age group only get about nine hours of sleep per day.
Ages 12 to 18 years old. Traditionally it has been taught that teenagers should get 8 to 9 hours of sleep per day. However, newer research has shown than teenagers need more sleep to function at their best and to feel well rested the next day, around 9.2 hours per day, when compared to adults and young children. This discovery could cause educators to change school schedules in the future.
There is also an association between sleep deprivation and poor grades, and sleep disturbances are also associated with depression and ADHD. As only 15 percent of teenagers sleep more than 8.5 hours on school nights, helping your teenager to get more sleep, and avoid over taxing themselves by spending excessive time online and with friends, could do a world of good. In terms of weight gain, new research has shown that teens who sleep less than eight hours a day are more likely to eat a diet which is high in fats.
The solution to reversing the worrisome trend of increased weight and obesity among children will be complex and will take years to implement, nonetheless, helping children get the sleep they needs appears to be an important part of this solution.