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We all know that sleep is important for people of all ages, but sleep patterns in childhood may set the stage for energy balance and overall maintenance of healthy weights.
A recent study indicates that children who sleep less may end up consuming more calories. 37 children ages 8-11 were randomly divided into two groups. In one group, normal sleep times were increased by 1.5 hours. In the other group, normal sleep times were decreased by 1.5 hours. The authors concluded that the increased sleep group had lower reported food intake, lower fasting leptin levels (a hormone that regulates appetite) and lower weight.
This finding is is only a piece of the puzzle as far as the enormous benefits of sufficient sleep, particularly as children grow and develop. Sleep supports this rapid growth and development of bodies and brains—and ultimately better concentration and performance, both mentally and physically.
Strategies for setting consistent sleep patterns include setting a family bedtime, having a “no electronics” rule (turning off all televisions, cell phones, computers, etc.). If your child has a TV in his or her room, you may want to consider removing it. Darkness is important for sleep, but if your child is prefers light, try a dimmed light or nightlight. Reading before bed is also helpful as part of the routine.
Contributor: Catherine Staffieri, Dietetic Intern