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Ensure children get their sleep to keep food temptations away

Posted:  Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Do you find children salivating at the very mention of food or are too eager to eat the food they might have glanced upon? If yes, then it is time to check if they are getting 12 hours of sleep. Recently, researchers from UK found that 5 year old children who slept for less than 11 hours may be easily tempted by food compared to those who sleep longer. Such kids also tend to have a higher body mass index than their well-rested counterparts.

The study involved 1,008 five-year-olds born in 2007. The researchers quizzed their mothers about their youngsters’ responsiveness to food cues and their behaviour toward food after they were full. The answers were captured in a questionnaire ranking the responsiveness on a scale of 1 to 5. The findings were reported in the International Journal of Obesity.

The children in the study had an average sleep duration of 11.48 hours. Those who slept for less than 11 hours recorded 2.53 on the scale. Those who slept for 11 to 12 hours recorded 2.36 and those getting at least 12 hours of sleep a night got 2.35. Children who slept less than 11 hours a night were more willing to eat at the sight or reminder of a favourite snack, compared to those who slept longer. The children who slept less than 11 hours at night also had a higher body mass index than those who slept 11 hours or more. Preschool children are recommended 11 to 12 hours of sleep by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Earlier studies have shown that insufficient or short sleep in both children and adults increases reward-driven or 'hedonic' eating. Coupled with the easy availability of junk foods and an obesogenic environment could propel one towards obesity. “Some studies using brain imaging in adults have shown that sleep restriction increases responsiveness in reward centers of the brain in response to images of palatable food . . . however, no studies in children have examined whether sleep changes food responsiveness,” says the lead researcher.

The current study, however, did not find any relation between lack of sleep and the urge to eat even after satiation. Although these results can’t prove for certain that less sleep could tempt kids to eat more, the researchers still advise limiting food cues to children who may not be getting enough sleep, to prevent overconsumption.

The researchers also put forth the possibility that excessive food responsiveness in some children could prevent them from settling in bed sooner. The researchers appeal to parents, the biggest driving force in determining the sleep and eating patterns in toddlers, to control the home environment such a way that doesn’t promote obesity among their children.

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