Sleep-related breathing problems and lack of sleep may increase obesity risk in kids

Sleep-related breathing problems and lack of sleep may increase obesity risk in kids

Sleep-related breathing problems and chronic lack of sleep may both double the risk of a child becoming obese by the age of 15, according to research from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University. The positive news is that both of these problems can be fixed with the right steps.

In recent years, lack of sleep has become a well-recognized risk for childhood obesity,” said Karen Bonuck, Ph.D., professor of family and social medicine and of obstetrics & gynecology and women’s health at Einstein and lead author on the paper. “Sleep-disordered breathing, or SDB, which includes snoring and sleep apnea, is also a risk factor for obesity but receives less attention. These two risk factors had not been tracked together in children over time to determine their potential for independently influencing weight gain. Our study aimed to fill in that gap,” she added.

Dr. Bonuck and her research team analyzed data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) based in Avon, England. ALSPAC contained parent questionnaire data on their children’s average sleep duration and SDB symptoms, starting from birth until 6.75 years.

The research team found that children with the most serious SDB symptoms had the biggest risk for obesity, and were twice as likely to become obese by 7, 10 and 15 years old. Overall, one-fourth of the 1,899 children in the study had an increase in risk of obesity.

When analyzing sleep duration data, the researchers found that children with the shortest sleep times at 5-6 years old had a 60-100 percent increased risk of developing obesity by age 15. Children with short sleep duration of other ages did not experience an significant increase in risk.

SDB and short sleep duration were found to be equally strong risk factors for obesity, but the effects were independent of each other. The researchers looked for links between the two conditions, but did not find much evidence that children with one risk factor were likely to be affected by the other.

We know that the road to obesity often begins early in life,” said Dr. Bonuck. “Our research strengthens the case that insufficient sleep and SDB — especially when present early in childhood — increase the risk for becoming obese later in childhood. If impaired sleep in childhood is conclusively shown to cause future obesity, it may be vital for parents and physicians to identify sleep problems early, so that corrective action can be taken and obesity prevented. With childhood obesity hovering at 17 percent in the United States, we’re hopeful that efforts to address both of these risk factors could have a tremendous public health impact,” she added.

A common cause of SDB is enlarged tonsils or adenoids, which can be removed through surgery. Misalignment of the jaws and teeth, which can be treated with orthodontic care, can cause SDB as well. As for lack of sleep, “Learning good sleep habits and proper sleep hygiene can promote healthy sleep and longer sleep duration,” said Dr. Bonuck.

Here are the recommended hours of sleep children of all ages should get, according to the National Sleep Foundation:
Infants: up to 16 hours total, including naps
Toddlers (1-3 yrs): 12-14 hours, including naps
Preschool (3-5 yrs): 11-13 hours, most do not nap after age 5
School-age (5-12 yrs): 10-11 hours

The study was published in the Journal of Pediatrics.

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1. “Short Sleep Duration and Sleep-Related Breathing Problems Increase Obesity Risk in Kids.” Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Yeshiva University, 11 Dec. 2014. Web. 12 Dec. 2014.
2. “Sleep-Disordered Breathing, Sleep Duration, and Childhood Overweight: A Longitudinal Cohort Study.” Journal of Pediatrics. Journal of Pediatrics, 10 Dec. 2014. Web. 12 Dec. 2014.
3. “How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?National Sleep Foundation. National Sleep Foundation, n.d. Web. 11 Dec. 2014.

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