How A Child’s Sleep and Weight Might Be Related

Have you ever wondered whether a child’s sleep and weight might be related? Time Magazine reported that a Harvard study ( concluded that too little sleep in babies and toddlers might be linked to obesity. And, they said TV viewing heightened the effect. No surprise there.

At first I was skeptical about this study of the link between sleep and obesity. After all, we are also living in a fast food era, watch hours of television, sit behind a computer for hours blogging, tweeting, and surfing the ‘net.

Even if you are reading a book (you know…one that is made of paper and you don’t have to click to go to the next page), you are sitting. There are a lot of factors at play here with what is making our country obese. The CDC reports that adults aged 20-74 years the prevalence of obesity increased from 15.0% (in the 1976-1980 survey) to 32.9% (in the 2003-2004 survey) and children aged 2-5 years, the prevalence of overweight increased from 5.0% to 13.9%. So, I think we can all agree we DO have a weight problem, but what is the real driving force?

A good friend of mine and I were discussing this study and I expressed my skepticism. Although I am obsessed with sleep, my data analyst/scientific mind was having trouble getting away from too many variables and the inability for them to really study just ONE facet of a complicated toddler’s life. But, I thought this would be an appropriate place to at least explore how sleep can possibly be related to a child’s weight.

I thought it was worth mentioning to you as another reason to help your child to get as much sleep as they need. As a bonus, if you are watching your own weight, it gives you a reason to get in that bed!

As my friend pointed out when supporting this article, circadian rhythms play a part in appetite suppressant while we sleep. Circadian rhythms are our bodies way of controlling when we sleep, get hungry, our mood and when we get IN the mood. Our bodies release hormones leptin and ghrelin to signal to our body we are full and hungry, respectively. When we don’t sleep enough, leptin levels go down.

It has been shown that those of us without a circadian rhythm disorder will get a spike of ghrelin in the middle of the night. This explains why I’d need to go out and eat after clubbing waaay back in the day, but I digress.

So, naturally, if you aren’t sleeping when you should be and you get this surge of ghrelin, you can expect to get hungry and, most likely, eat. Simple as that. So, unless you go running after that late night snack or your toddler plays hard after his/her late night snack (when (s)he should be sleeping) and doesn’t sit down to watch Dora or Diego, you can see that you are more likely to eat too much that day.

What I have still concluded for myself and my family is that sleep is ever more important in our lives, but so is what we eat and how active we are. But, then that’s not news. We hear it over and over and over again…so why aren’t we all listening? I have an idea. Let’s make treadmills net, twitter and blog-enabled! Not a bad idea for you inventors out there…

I want to thank my friend for inspiring what to write in this post. I’d link to her blog, but I don’t think she has one. I’m sure hers would be very interesting, though. She has a lot of interesting thoughts.


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8 thoughts on “How A Child’s Sleep and Weight Might Be Related”

  1. @Najmi You’re welcome. 🙂

    @Jess I agree. I suppose if the kids were eating carrot sticks, we may not have as big of a problem with being more sedentary, perhaps (except for the cardio that we also need). I wonder if TV makes it easier to push bedtimes too late too, though. Since they appear “not tired” for a lot of parents who might not prioritize sleep as much or know how much they need.

  2. Love the perspective!
    I’m also thinking the days Aidan doesn’t sleep enough, he is cranky, so the easiest *activity* is plugging him into the TV….. which means he sits on the couch, completely inactive. And if we do give him food, he eats it without noticing his fullness level. It is a vicious cycle indeed.
    Not sure which came first…TV/junk food or lack of sleep. Reminiscent of the chicken and the egg, no?

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