The prevention of obesity -especially in children- has been a foremost health concern in recent years. According to researchers at the University College London, children who sleep less also eat more, which may lead to obesity later in life.
The researchers’ goal was to find out if children who were short sleepers consumed more calories, as previous studies have been able to show that being a short sleeper in early life increases the obesity risk.
Funded by Cancer Research UK, this study is the first to directly link sleep to calorie intake in children under the age 3. Its findings are significant as they were observed before differences in weight occurred, demonstrating that energy intake is a pathway that sleep uses to add to weight gain in early childhood.
1303 UK families in the Gemini birth cohort were involved, allowing their children’s sleep to be monitored when they were 16 months old and their diet when they were 21 months old.
The researchers found that the 16 month-old children who slept 10 hours of sleep each day consumed an average of 105kcal more each day, compared to the children who slept more than 13 hours each day. The increase is around 10%, from 983kcal to 1087kcal.
More research is needed to understand why children who sleep less consume more calories, but parents should be made of aware of the findings as they are in control of their child’s sleep schedule and diet.
Promote healthy sleep, diet, and exercise practices in your household as early as possible. These 3 pillars of health are sure way to establish healthy habits, make for better behaved children and it’s easier for children to learn new information when they get enough sleep.