Good Night and Good Health

One more point to show that “nature” doesn’t run the show when it comes to the health of our seedlings (or any of us, for that matter)… Last week Mark offered commentary on an analysis of twins and childhood obesity published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, which had been picked up by MSNBC. Research out of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health late last week highlights yet another environmental influence related to childhood obesity.

Their analysis of epidemiological studies found that with each additional hour of sleep, the risk of a child being overweight or obese dropped by 9 percent. Our analysis of the data shows a clear association between sleep duration and the risk for overweight or obesity in children. …The results of the analysis showed that children with the shortest sleep duration had a 92 percent higher risk of being overweight or obese compared to children with longer sleep duration. For children under age 5, shortest sleep duration meant less than 9 hours of sleep per day. For children ages 5 to 10 it meant less than 8 hours of sleep per day and less than 7 hours of sleep per day for children over 10. The association between increased sleep and reduced obesity risk was strongly associated with boys, but not in girls.

via Science Daily

The researchers noted that children under age 5 should sleep at least 11 hours a day. At least ten hours of sleep are recommended for children between the ages of 5 and 10. Finally, 9 hours or more of sleep are recommended for children older than 10.

A 2006 study linked short sleep duration to obesity in both children and adults. Researchers for that study suggested that the connection may be traced to the influence of sleep on hormone production. Sleep deprivation is known to both spur production of Ghrelin, a hormone that increases appetite and inhibit production of leptin, which decreases appetite. Sleep deprivation has also been linked to an increase in behavioral issues, attention difficulties, depression, and poor academic performance in young people.

You’d think this all would be common sense, but then how many of us have seen three-year-olds running around ice cream parlors (or other locations that you fill in here) at 9 o’clock at night with their families? Seriously, we aren’t kidding about the ice cream parlor. Double dip cones, to boot. And we know it’s not just the choices of parents here. How about school districts that start classes at 7:30 a.m.?

It seems every day we hear more bad news about the health of the seedlings among us. With erratic schedules, junk food, decreased recess and gym time, sedentary diversions, it’s little wonder childhood obesity is on the rise. You can’t tell us nurture isn’t key. Researchers have said for years that the first few years of a child’s life are especially critical for good health and cognition. Sleep, nutrition, and exercise (among other things) all help grow healthy seedlings. Despite the many quandaries of parenthood, some things remain pretty darn simple.

foundphotoslj Flickr Photo (CC)

Further Reading:

Insomnia Sleep Tips

Sleep Better Tonight

Healthbolt: Scratch Free Sleep

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18 thoughts on “Good Night and Good Health”

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  1. Enough sleep is very important to teach children that it’s part of being healthy, it goes hand in hand. Sleep aids in better mood and concentration.

  2. How about school districts that start classes at 7:30 a.m.?

    In my district, elementary school doors open at 7:30 and the final bell rings at 7:50. Middle and high schools start an hour later. It used to be reversed until research came out about the delayed circadian rhythms of teenagers. Most districts do double bus runs, so somebody has to start early. I myself find it hard to crawl out from under my cozy comforter at 5:15 AM on a cold, dark winter morning.

  3. I learned in high school that I had to have eight hours of sleep to function best, and college reinforced it. Now I think I am running on less, and consequently not getting up when I plan to or oversleeping on the weekends and throwing my sleep schedule off-track again. Time to move the bedtime up.

    And then we’ll get stupid Daylight Savings time next month which will mess me up again. Why can’t we adjust the work schedule around the sun again?

  4. Could it also be that the amount of exercise kids get influences their sleep patterns? I’d imagine if some kid is running around all day they’re probably going to sleep a lot longer. On the other hand, if they’re not getting enough sleep, they’re probably going to be lethargic all day and not get enough exercise. I’ll buy the hormonal explanation, but I’m sure it gets reinforced by the connection between sleeping patterns and daytime behaviour.

  5. It is definitely problematic. You have to get your kids up to get ready for school by 7 a.m. (at the latest), but then they have concerts, games or other activities that end at 8:30 or later. Get home, bathe, do bedtime and they’re not asleep until 10 or later. The math just doesn’t work out well, especially for the little ones.

    The freedom of scheduling, and the crappy foods served in school lunches (plus the cutting back on recess) are contributors to our decision to homeschool. 🙂

    I’m never sure what to think when I see very young kids out and about very late at night. I guess some kids might sleep later, but it just seems strange to me, and this reinforces it.

  6. The other side of the coin is that if you are physically inactive you will feel a lot less like sleeping. If you are tired you may tend to be less active and some look to foods (eg sugars) for stimulation. There is a sort of perpuating cycle here which needs to be broken

  7. Judy: “I’m never sure what to think when I see very young kids out and about very late at night. I guess some kids might sleep later, but it just seems strange to me, and this reinforces it.”

    One factor might be parents who refuse to accept that having kids means a change to your lifestyle. A parent can’t be out late every night unless a) they can afford a babysitter, or b) they drag their little ones along with them.

    I remember when I was 10 or 11 negotiating with my mom to let me stay up past 8! Now I see 10 year olds up til all hours.

  8. Judy: You brought up something that rates as one of my pet peevers–namely, crappy school lunches. I asked Mark to reintroduce this topic so I could ask a question of the readers, but since you’ve opened the door, I’ll ask now.

    I have a 10 year old grandson who is a good 30 pounds overweight. This is despite the fact that he’s a competitive swimmer and generally a very active kid. His diet up to this point, however, stinks! I’ve convinced his mother to quit taking him for burgers and fies after school, and I have him eating MDA-approved salads after school instead. But I can’t be there at school and I’ve seen some of the stuff they serve (I been eating with one or two grandkids once a week for seven years). So here is where I could use some help fron the Apple contingent. I’m looking for any ideas I can use to pack him a lunch for school as an alternative to industrial pizza and mystery-meat nuggets. He doesn’t eat until 11:40 so it would be better if it didn’t need refrigeration or reheating although I’d get a thermos or a little insulated lunch kit if needed. I’d appreciate any help on this one. Thanks!

  9. Hi, Dave,

    It’s atrocious, isn’t it? I understand your concern. As a mom who’s trying to get her toddler started off on the right foot, I know it can be challenging to come up with appealing alternatives. I, for now, have the luxury of preventing my daughter from even looking at a McDonalds or seeing the ads on T.V. Unfortunately, that gets harder as they get older.

    I would suggest moving in increments as he gets used to new tastes. The holistic parenting movement has some good cookbooks out there, but you can find a few great ideas even in Martha Stewart’s “good things for kids” or Jessica Seinfeld’s new book. (Just know there’s also a lot of carb heavy stuff to skip over.) I have to say that presentation matters big to kids. They like things cut into small wedges, etc.

    A few ideas (some require that insulated lunch kit you mention):
    –whole wheat pita and hummus (wheat, yes, but Rome wasn’t built in a day) Ideally, he’ll be dipping cut veggies into the hummus once he gets used to the hummus

    –kefir or cottage cheese with berries or cherries added

    –Apple slices with marscapone cheese or nut butter

    –sweet potato “fries” (a compromise, yes, but it might help to win him over with familiar things first)

    –deviled eggs (ideally made with yoghurt or homemade mayo)

    –hearty main “leftover” courses like stews, chili with lots of veggies

    –salads with meat: chef’s salad or (company favorite at my house) shredded roasted chicken salad with red cabbage, granny smith apple, celery slices, a bit of celery salt, garlic/garlic powder (for quick prep), and mayo/yoghurt.

    Good luck! You sound like a great grandfather!