A new study due to be published in the journal Pediatrics, finds that children who sleep more may eat fewer calories and put on less weight, strengthening the idea that obesity risk and lack of sleep are linked.
The study by the Center for Obesity Research and Education (CORE) at Temple University in Philadelphia, is thought to be the first to look at the effect of sleep on children’s eating behaviours by manipulating their sleep time.
Chantelle Hart, associate professor of public health at Temple’s CORE, says “The findings from this study suggest that enhancing school-age children’s sleep at night could have important implications for prevention and treatment of obesity.”
The researchers enrolled 37 children aged from 8 to 11, among whom 27% were overweight or obese, to take part in the 3-week study.
For the first week the children slept as normal, but for the second and third week they were randomly allowed to either sleep longer per night for one week and then less for another week, or sleep less for one week and then longer for another week.
The children were weighed and asked about what they ate during the study period. They also had tests to measure fasting levels of leptin, a hormone that regulates hunger and is closely linked to body fat.
The results show that compared with the week of reduced sleep, for the week when the children slept more, they reported consuming an average of 134 fewer calories per day. They also weighed half a pound less and had lower levels of leptin.
This is the latest in a number of studies to suggest links between children’s sleep patterns and weight gain.