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Weekend 'Catch-Up' Sleep May Help Kids' Weight

Study: Children Who Don't Get Enough Sleep Have Higher Risk of Obesity, but Sleeping in on the Weekends May Help

Poor Sleepers Had More Metabolic Risk continued...

Study participants slept, on average, about eight hours a night, whether they were normal weight, overweight, or obese. But obese children slept less on weekends, suggesting that they were not making up for missed sleep during the week, Gozal says.

The researchers also took blood samples from about half of the children to measure metabolic and inflammatory risk factors for heart disease and diabetes such as glucose, insulin, cholesterol, and triglycerides.

Shorter overall sleep duration and irregular sleep were associated with a greater prevalence of these risk factors.

The findings do not prove that sleeping too little or having a poor sleep routine are direct contributors to obesity and the development of metabolic risk factors for disease.

Expert: Catching Up Easier for Older Kids

But Gozal says the evidence supporting the association continues to mount.

“There is very little respect for sleep in our society, and we think this needs to change,” he says.

Pediatrician and sleep researcher Julie Lumeng, MD, of the University of Michigan, agrees that the research on sleep and childhood obesity supports, but does not prove, a link between the two.

Lumeng’s own research, published in 2007, found that sixth graders who averaged less than 8 1/2 hours of sleep each night were almost twice as likely to be obese as sixth-graders who slept more than 9 1/2 hours.

She says for younger children, like the ones in the study, having a regular bedtime and a regular nightly routine may be particularly important.

She says although older children and teens may be able to catch up on lost sleep on weekends, younger children usually cannot do this.

“Teens can easily sleep until noon or even 1 if they have been up late the night before, but young children’s brains are not wired to allow them to do this,” she says. “If a 7-year-old stays up until midnight on a Saturday night, she is probably still going to wake up early the next day.”

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