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Mom’s work routine and children’s weight linked says study

Posted:  Friday, November 28, 2014

Preschoolers missing out on sleep due to their mother’s work schedule could be paying dearly for the lack of sleep. An American study found that the majority of preschoolers with full time working mothers may not be getting the recommended amount of sleep every night, predisposing them to obesity or overweight. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute recommends 11 to 12 hours of nightly sleep for preschoolers.

Published in the journal Sleep Medicine, the study investigated links between mothers' employment and their children's weight over time, examining the influence of specific factors such as children's sleep and dietary habits, the amount of TV viewing time and family mealtime routines.

The researchers followed 247 mother-child pairs from the STRONG Kids study. Children aged between 3 to 5 years old were weighed, measured, and had their body mass index calculated at the beginning of the study and again one year later. At the second weigh-in, 17% of the children were found to be overweight, whereas 12% were obese.

On evaluating the mother’s employment status, the researchers found that 66% of the enrolled mothers had full time jobs requiring them to put in 35 hours or more per week. Another 18% were employed part time putting in 20–34 hours per week. They found that children with full time working mothers got less sleep and reported higher BMI at second weigh-in compared to those with mothers working under 20 hours.

Only 18% of the children in the study fulfilled the recommended nightly sleep time. On average, the children were getting about 9.6 hours of nighttime sleep. Much interestingly, each additional hour of nighttime sleep was associated with a 6.8% decrease in the BMI at the second weigh-in. "We looked at nighttime sleep in particular, because studies show that the amount of nighttime sleep matters for regulating weight," said the researchers.

As mothers put in more hours at their workplace, they devote less time to their children. The children may be deprived of sleep in the morning too because they are mostly rushed to day care centres. According to the researchers, adequate sleep could be a luxury for low-income groups as women in these groups work multiple jobs or rotating shifts or nonstandard hours. With this link coming to the fore, it would be wise for women to prioritise and manage their time so that children don’t pay the price with their health.

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