Lack of night sleep in infants can lead to childhood obesity

Schwarz E, Brown J, Creasman J, Stuebe A, McClure C, van Den Eeden S, Thom D. Lactation and maternal risk of type 2 diabetes: a population-based study. American Journal of Medicine, 2010; 123(9): 863.e1-863.e6.

Insufficient amounts of night time sleep among infants and preschool-aged children may be a significant risk factor for developing childhood obesity, say US researchers. To test associations between daytime and night time sleep duration and subsequent obesity in children and adolescents, the researchers studied 1930 children aged nought to 13 years in 1997, and again in 2002. The children were separated into a ‘younger’ group (age nought to 59 months) and an ‘older’ group (age 60 to 154 months).

At follow up, 33% of the younger cohort and 36% of the older cohort were overweight or obese. For the younger children, short duration of night time sleep at baseline was associated with an increased risk of subsequent overweight or obesity. In the older age group, baseline sleep was not associated with subsequent weight status, though contemporaneous sleep was associated with increased odds of a shift from normal weight to overweight or from overweight to obesity at follow up.

The authors conclude that sleep duration is a modifiable risk factor that has potentially important implications for obesity prevention and treatment. Napping had no effects on the development of obesity and is not a substitute for sufficient night time sleep.


A survey carried out by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) in 2004 in America found children are getting less sleep than experts recommend for their age group and that parents do not always know how much sleep their child needs.

The Sleep in America Poll shows that children from newborn to 11 years were getting one to two hours less sleep in every twenty four hours than they need.

Two-thirds of all children experienced one or more sleep problems a few nights a week. Common problems included; difficulties falling asleep, resisting going to bed, sleep walking, snoring and breathing difficulties. Nearly one-third of children needed attention from a parent during the night.

Richard L Gelula the NSF Chief Executive Officer, said in a statement, “What is troublesome is that sleep problems start in infancy”.

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