Sleepless Children at Risk for Becoming Overweight

November 19, 2008
Sean Johnson

Most parents will tell you that their child/children have had at least one sleep-related problem from the time they are born to about six years old. It’s a common occurrence, with the most frequent issues being night terrors, bed wetting, and grinding teeth.

Most parents will tell you that their child/children have had at least one sleep-related problem from the time they are born to about six years old. It’s a common occurrence, with the most frequent issues being night terrors, bed wetting, and grinding teeth. Most of the time, it’s a rite of passage that simply passes as the child gets older. However, for others, it can be a problem that persists, one which will not allow them to sleep for six consecutive hours or more. Aside from the obvious problem of sleep deprivation, Université de Montréal researchers are now reporting that they have found a link between sleep-related problems in this age group and being overweight and hyperactive.

The research for this study included the analysis of 1,138 children, with the following results were seen in children who slept less than 10 hours a night:

- 26% were overweight

- 18.5% carried extra weight

- 7.4% were considered obese

One possible explanation for this correlation is the secretion of hormones that are brought on by a lack of sleep, explained Jacques Montplaisir, a professor in the Department of Psychiatry and director of Sleep Disorders Center at Sacré-Coeur Hospital. “When we sleep less, our stomach secretes more of the hormone that stimulates appetite, and we also produce less of the hormone whose function is to reduce the intake of food.”

The same study found that inadequate sleep could also lead to hyperactivity, something that does not have the same effect in adults. “In adults, inadequate sleep translates into sleepiness, but in children it creates excitement,” Montplaisir said.

The study also included a cognitive performance test that was given to the children and involved copying a picture using blocks of two colors. Researchers found that, among the children that lacked sleep, 41% performed poorly, compared with 17-21% of children with 10 to 11 hours of sleep per night.

Related resources:

Sleep Problems in Children — WebMD

Sleep Problems in Children - National Sleep Foundation

Sleep Education.com