The number of overweight children is growing at such an alarming rate. In a nutshell, children today are now spending less time playing outside and exercising, therefore having more time in front of the television, computer, or video game consoles. A normal family today may have less free time to prepare nutritious, home cooked meals for the day. This situation is further worsened by the hectic schedules and high-pressure demands of work and school. Being quick and easy now seems to be the mindset of people, both young and old.
Since before, the number of overweight children and adolescents has more than doubled. Ten percent of kids up to five years of age and more than fifteen percent of children aging from six to nineteen are overweight. If these numbers are combined with the percentage of children who are at risk of becoming overweight, about one out of three children are affected.
Another related study on sleep has also found that lack of sleep in children aged nine to twelve is linked to an increased risk of being overweight. The researchers included in this study were working on a project called Sleep ImageIn that seeks the link between sleep duration in third and sixth grade children and their risk of being overweight. One of the researchers said that many children are not getting enough sleep, and that lack of sleep may not only be making them moody or preventing them from being alert and ready for school, but it may also lead to a higher risk of being overweight.
The researchers in this study found that children who slept for less than nine hours a day were at increased risk of being overweight, and this was unaffected by race, gender, socioeconomic status, or quality of their home environment. Among the sixth graders, those who slept the least were the most likely to be overweight, and among the third grade children, those who slept the least were most likely to be overweight in sixth grade, regardless of their BMI (body mass index, used for measuring obesity) in third grade. On a more positive note, this study found that every extra hour of sleep in the sixth grade was connected to a 20 percent reduction in risk of being overweight in the sixth grade, while in the third grade this was connected to a 40 percent reduction in being overweight in the sixth grade.
Based on their findings, the researchers noted that sleep patterns may have a behavior impact on children. Those who get enough rest have more energy to exercise, such as playing outside instead of lying around and watching TV. And when children are tired, they may be more irritable and moody, and may use food to regulate their mood.
Sleep studies such as this can contribute to the healthcare that children need for proper growth. Researchers advised families who struggle to get their children to go to sleep at a reasonable hour, to seek help from their health care provider. By enforcing an age-appropriate bed time, or even revising school start-times, major improvements can be made to ensure that children have enough of health-giving rest and sleep.