Teens who don’t get enough sleep at risk for packing on pounds

For some time, research has informed us that if young children don’t sleep, they have more of a chance of gaining weight. However, we really don’t have a lot of information about our adolescents and how sleep impacts them. Young children between the ages of one and three years old require 12 to 14 hours of sleep. Children between the ages of three and five require 11 to 13 hours of sleep. Our older children should sleep about 9 hours a night. Research has told us that in young children, for every hour gained of regular adequate sleep, they decrease the risk of being overweight by 9 per cent.
In new research done at Seattle Children’s Research Institutes, and presented at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies in Vancouver this week, investigators looked at 723 adolescents, with an average age of 14.7 years. They gathered information on hours slept on weeknights and weekends, and the foods and beverages they consumed to assess caloric intake. As well, they measured activity by having the participants wear accelerometers on their belts for 7 days. These devices measure movement on three different planes and the wearer could not see any data on how active they were.
The participants then had their weight, BMI and percentage of body fat measured. Interestingly, the researchers found that sleep duration was related to BMI. This relationship was especially strong for boys and middle school students, as opposed to high school students. In girls, only less sleep on weekends was related to a higher BMI. We are not really sure why sleep is related to BMI, but this has been shown in very young children and adults, as well as now, in adolescents — particularly adolescent boys. It is possible that if you do not sleep enough, then you are tired during the day and that daytime sleepiness translates into less daytime activity. It may simply be that the longer you are awake, the more opportunity there is to eat. Finally, it might be that hormones are impacted on by sleep affecting appetite and intake.
It is also curious that girls seem to be less impacted by sleep than boys. Some have theorized that girls may be more resilient to environmental stress. When we talk about lifestyle modification and health behavior we often forget about sleep as very important health behaviour and a very important determinant of health. One more thing we have control of in having a healthy lifestyle… make sure you get adequate ZZZZs!

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