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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