According to a new study involving children 16 months of age it was concluded that sleeping 3 hours less than their peers who slept an average of up to 13 hours a day, equaled a 10 percent higher caloric intake. Previous studies have concluded that less sleep in adults equals higher daily caloric intake, but this is the first time that children under the age of 3 have been studied. The study was conducted by University College London, and examined 1,300 sets of twins aged 16 months.
According to Dr. Abi Fisher, one of the researchers from the Heath Behaviour Center at University College London, it is known that less sleep in life increases the risks of being overweight. The difference in sleep reported in the study was on average 3 hours, with toddlers who slept 10 hours a day being at a higher risk of obesity than those who slept an average of 13 hours. Fisher goes on to say that more studies are needed in order to understand why children under 3 years of age would experience the extra 10 percent consumption in calories. It is believed that the difference in weight may be due to that fact that infants become restless and irritable when tired; leading parents to believe they are hungry. It is also believed that toddlers may utilize food for an energy boost, according to Tam Fry from the National Obesity Forum, adults do the same.
In a study published on PLOS Medicine it was concluded that shorter sleep reduced leptin while elevating ghrelin. Leptin is the starvation hormone, but is largely known as the ‘obesity hormone.’ According to Web MD, leptin is a protein that is made in fat cells, which communicates to the brain that the body has enough fat to engage in the metabolic process. Ghrelin on the other hand is an appetite hormone that increases before meals, and decreases after a person eats. The study included 1,024 volunteers ages 30 through 60 from the Wisconsin Sleep Cohort Study. They discovered that increased body mass index (BMI) was proportional to reduced sleep. The sleep difference was on average 3 hours, with a 5 hour nightly sleep for those with a higher BMI, and an average sleep of 8 hours for the individuals with the lower BMI. The surprising issue when comparing both studies is that although the age difference is significant, the results of a higher weight were also based on a 3 hour night sleep difference. According to a study published by the Archives of Internal Medicine, overweight people slept on average 16 minutes less per day than people of normal weight. And in a study published by the American Journal of Epidemiology it was reported that women who slept 5 or fewer hours where at a greater risk for being overweight than those who slept an average of 7 to 8 hours a night. Once again there is an average difference of 3 hours of sleep.
As of now researchers are recommending parents be aware of their children’s sleep and feeding patters in order to reduce the risk of childhood and potential adult obesity. Although sleep times are associated with weight gain in adulthood, more research is yet to be done in order to develop a conclusion as to whether sleep deprivation produces weight gain in children less than 3 years of age.
By Dony Lugo