Several studies in the past have found a link between obesity and a lack of sleep in children. Now, a broad meta-analysis seems to confirm that common assumption that sleep-deprived children and adolescents do indeed increase their risk of obesity.
Researchers at the University of Warwick, UK, reviewed the results of 42 population studies involving a total of 75,499 subjects aged 0 to 18 years.
The average sleep duration of the participants was assessed using different methods ranging from simple questionnaires to the use of tracking bracelets.
The researchers separated the subjects into two groups — the short sleepers and the regular sleepers — and followed them for three years. Those classified as short sleepers were those who recorded shorter nights than the British National Sleep Foundation’s age-specific recommendations.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends that babies between the ages of 4 and 11 months sleep between 12 and 15 hours. Children between one and two years are recommended to sleep between 11 and 14 hours. Those between the ages of 3 and 5 should sleep between 10 and 13 hours and young people from 6 to 13 should sleep between 9 and 11 hours per night. Teenagers (between 14 and 17 years old) are also recommended to sleep 8 to 10 hours per night.
This analysis shows that short sleepers of all ages gained more weight than children and adolescents who slept adequately and were more likely (+58%) to become obese or overweight.
“The results showed a consistent relationship across all age groups indicating that the increased risk is present in younger and older children,” commented co-author Dr. Michelle Miller. She also added that “the study reinforces the concept that lack of sleep is an important risk factor for obesity, detectable very early in life.”
“Being overweight can lead to cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, which is also increasing in children,” she added.