We have been quick to point the blame at sugary drinks, fast foods and the technology boom when it comes to understanding the reasons behind childhood obseity.
But researchers at the Temple Center for Obesity Research and Education (CORE) are blaming a lack of sleep for children overeating.
In the first known study of its kind, researchers examined the impact of sleep on children’s eating behaviours by altering the sleeping patterns of kids aged 8 to 11 – 27 per cent of which were overweight or obese.
For the first week of the study, children slept their usual number of hours, but were asked to either reduce or extend their sleeping time the next week, and then follow this up with the opposite sleep schedule the following week.
Conclusive results found that in the week where the youngsters’ sleep was increased, they consumed 134 less calories a day on average and weighed 0.23 kilograms less (half a pound). It is believed this is due to the children exhibiting lower levels of leptin during this time, a hunger-regulating hormone.
“Findings from this study suggest that enhancing school-age children’s sleep at night could have important implications for prevention and treatment of obesity,” said study leader Dr Chantelle Hart, associate professor of public health at CORE.
“Given all of its documented benefits, in many ways, you can’t lose in promoting a good night’s sleep,” she added.