Are Kids Who Sleep More on the Weekends Less Likely to be Obese?

Making up sleep on the weekends and holidays can reverse the adverse effects of irregular sleep on weekdays in kids, and potentially, help stave off obesity.

When children are given the opportunity to sleep more on occasions like weekends and holidays, the extra sleep tends to mitigate the adverse effects of irregular sleep on weekdays, according to new research published in Pediatrics.

In the new study, researchers from the University of Chicago and the University of Louisville examined the effects of duration and regularity of sleep schedules on body mass index (BMI) and the effect on metabolic regulation in children.

While the association between short sleep duration, obesity, and metabolic dysfunction in children has been proposed, it had not been explored appropriately. In this study, Karen Spruyt, PhD, and colleagues examined the effects of duration and regularity of sleep schedules on BMI and the impact on metabolic regulation in children by assessing the sleep patterns of 308 community-recruited children ages four to 10 years with wrist actigraphs for one week. They also measured fasting morning plasma levels of glucose, insulin, lipids, and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein.

Regardless of weight, they found that children averaged eight hours of sleep per night, which is significantly lower than current recommendations. Although obese children did not have radically different school day sleep schedules compared with their normal-weight counterparts, analyses of SV throughout the week revealed that obese children were less likely to experience “catch-up” sleep on weekends. The combination of less sleep and more variable sleep patterns was associated with adverse metabolic outcomes, including altered insulin, low-density lipoprotein, and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein plasma levels, according to the authors.

Spruyt and colleagues also found that children whose sleep patterns were at the lower end of sleep duration, particularly in the presence of irregular sleep schedules, exhibited the greatest health risk.

This information is critical, as approximately one in three obese preschool-aged children and half of all obese school-aged children become obese adults, they wrote. “Therefore, identification of children at risk during infancy and early childhood and implementation of prospective interventions aiming to prolong and to regularize sleep for such children should provide more-definitive answers regarding the role of sleep in the context of BMI regulation and metabolic homeostasis.”

The authors believe that “public health campaigns aiming to educate families regarding the benefits of longer and more-regular sleep may lead to decreased obesity and metabolic dysfunction trends for our children,” and should be pursued.

To read the Pediatrics study, click here.