Sleep Disorders and Childhood Obesity: Is Lack of Sleep Making Your Child Fat?

Obesity is a major concern in the United States today, and it doesn’t only affect adults. According to the CDC, nearly one third of American children are considered overweight or obese. But, how harmful is it really for your child to be overweight, and, how can you help them to get their weight under control? An even more important question is whether sleep disorders and childhood obesity are linked.

The health risks of obesity are well documented. Conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, bone and joint problems, social and psychological problems, and more, have been connected to being overweight. So, helping your child to control his or her weight involves much more than helping them to avoid the social stigma of being a bigger kid at school. Their health and well-being throughout their entire lives could be affected.

Consider a cause of childhood obesity that you may not have previously thought of—lack of sleep. Recent studies have revealed that those who sleep less (regardless of age or gender), seem to have a slower metabolism. The result is a direct correlation between sleep and weight. Less sleep equals more weight, while more sleep equals less weight.

So, what keeps children awake? Decades ago, kids would beg their parents for a little more TV time before bed. Later, it was video games. Next, it was the Internet. Now, it is often a combination of the three. One major issue is that most children have electronic devices in their room. Bedtime doesn’t necessarily mean sleep time, as children may stay up late (even though they are in bed), using their mobile devices and hand held video games.

What can you do to help?

If your children have mobile devices, teach them to not use these in bed. Perhaps you can have a place in the living room where they must charge their devices at night. This way, not only are the devices not being used, the sounds or vibrations from texts and emails received during the night will not interrupt their sleep. The CDC study alluded to earlier, indicated that kids with earlier bedtimes were also thinner. Thus, although sleep disorders and childhood obesity are linked, they don’t have to be. You may not be the most popular parent in school for urging implementing of these suggestions, at least among the kids, but it might help improve the health of everyone’s child.