Study: Length of children's sleep duration varies; can influence their weight, behavior

January 01, 2008

WESTCHESTER, Ill. - The duration of a child's sleep can vary, depending on the time of day, week and year. Further, children who don't get enough nightly sleep are more likely to be overweight and have behavioral problems, according to a study published in the January 1 issue of the journal SLEEP.

The study, authored by Professor Ed Mitchell, of the University of Auckland in New Zealand, focused on 591 seven-year-old children whose sleep duration was assessed by actigraphy (a non-invasive method used to study sleep-wake patterns and circadian rhythms by assessing movement) at four different stages of their young lives: at birth, at one year, at three-and-a-half years and at seven years.

According to the results, the average time spent in bed was 10.1 hours. Sleep duration was shorter: Children who slept less than nine hours were more likely to be overweight or obese and to have a 3.34 percent increase in body fat than those who slept for more than nine hours. Short sleep duration was also associated with higher emotional liability scores.

"Sleep is important for health and well-being throughout life," said Professor Mitchell. "Few studies have objectively measured sleep duration. In this large study of sleep in seven-year-olds, there was considerable variation in duration of sleep. Sleep duration was 40 minutes longer in winter than summer and was 31 minutes longer on weekdays than on the weekend. Short sleep duration was associated with a three-fold increased risk of the child being overweight or obese. This effect was independent of physical activity or television watching. Attention to sleep in childhood may be an important strategy to reduce the obesity epidemic."

It is recommended that children in pre-school sleep between 11-13 hours a night and school-aged children between 10-11 hours of sleep a night.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) offers some tips to help your child sleep better: It is important to make sure that your child gets enough sleep and sleeps well. The value of sleep can be measured by your child's smiling face, happy nature and natural energy. A tired child may have development or behavior problems. A child's sleep problems can also cause unnecessary stress for you and the other members of your family.

Parents who suspect that their child might be suffering from a sleep disorder are encouraged to consult with their child's pediatrician or a sleep specialist.
-end-
SLEEP is the official journal of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, LLC, a joint venture of the AASM and the Sleep Research Society.

More information on "children and sleep" is available from the AASM at http://www.SleepEducation.com/Topic.aspx?id=8.

SleepEducation.com, a patient education Web site created by the AASM, provides information about various sleep disorders, the forms of treatment available, recent news on the topic of sleep, sleep studies that have been conducted and a listing of sleep facilities.

For a copy of this article, entitled, "Short Sleep Duration in Middle Childhood: Risk Factors and Consequences", or to arrange an interview with an AASM spokesperson regarding this study, please contact Jim Arcuri, public relations coordinator, at (708)492-0930, ext. 9317, or jarcuri@aasmnet.org.

American Academy of Sleep Medicine

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