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Sleep Less, Eat More, Weigh More
Leave it to the scientists at University College London (UCL) to find a direct link between sleep and calorie/energy intake in children under the age of three. It turns out infants that don’t get enough sleep tend to need more calories. Although similar studies have been conducted on older children and adults with some concrete associations, this is the first to nail the issue down at such a developmental stage. This is significant because people who slept less as kids often develop eating issues, and related health problems possibly due to disrupted regulation of appetite hormones.
The study was funded by Cancer Research UK and involved 1303 UK families of the Gemini birth cohort. The UCL scientists, led by Dr. Abi Fisher of the UCL Health Behavior Research Center, monitoring sleep when the infants were 16 months old and then checked in on their diet at 21 months.
According to an article on ScienceDaily.com about a study published in the International Journal of Obesity and based on UCL research, “16 month-old children who slept for less than 10 hours each day consumed on average 105kcal more per day than children who slept for more than 13 hours. This is an increase of around 10 percent from 982kcal to 1087kcal.”
The link was observed before differences in weight emerged, suggesting that energy intake is a key pathway through which sleep contributes to weight gain in the first years of childhood. This information is especially valuable at a time when the childhood obesity rate is reaching alarming levels.
“The key message here is that shorter sleeping children may be prone to consume too many calories,” says Fisher. “Although more research is needed to understand why this might be, it is something parents should be made aware of.”
The information supplied in this article is not to be considered as medical advice and is for educational purposes only.