Continuing my focus of supporting the health of our children during this back-to-schoool month…
…today’s article is a reminder about just how crucial it is for children to get good sleep.
As we’ve already touched on, sleep helps with focus and concentration in children, as evidenced by this study on the relationship between ADHD and sleep.
And we also know that sleep is absolutely required for the long term function of our brain, as evidenced by this study that links poor sleep with higher risk of Alzheimer’s dementia (published in JAMA Neurology.)
Today’s study links weight gain with early childhood sleep habits, resulting in long term weight disturbances up to ten years later!
- Researchers looked at data on almost 1,000 preschool aged children (average age, 4.5 years old.)
- They stratified their bedtime into three categories:
- bedtime before 8 PM
- bedtime between 8 PM and 9 PM
- and bedtime after 9 PM.
- They assessed their bedtime habits as a preschooler and then assessed their weight roughly a decade later (average age, 15 years old.)
- Only 10% of young children who had a habit of an earlier bedtime became clinically obese as a teenager.
- In contrast, over 23% of young children who stayed up past 9 PM became clinically obese as a teen… more than doubling their risk!
- Children’s whose bedtime fell between 8 PM and 9 PM had a 60% increase in obesity
The Bottom Line:
Preschool aged children who stay up past 9 PM more than double their risk of obesity later in life.
I believe the answer lies in this article I shared with you back in August of 2013…
…showing that poor sleep caused study participants to gain weight 9 TIMES faster than participants who slept well.
- Researchers took 225 healthy adults with no history of sleep problems.
- Half of the participants had time in bed from 10 PM to 8 AM, but half were only allowed time in bed from 4AM to 8AM for 5 nights in a row.
- The group that had a full nights rest, on average, gained only a quarter of a pound… even though they were offered unlimited amounts of food (with unlimited access to food around the clock) throughout the length of the study.
- Having access to the exact same food as the control group, the sleep deprived group gained almost 9 times as much weight as the folks who got full rest… over 2 pounds in only 5 days.
If healthy individuals who experienced a short period of sleep deprivation gained 9 times as much weight as healthy individuals who get a full night of sleep…
…what does this predict for folks who are chronically sleep deprived?
Many of us LIVE in a state of catching only a few hours of sleep a night… not just for 5 days but for weeks, months, even years at a time.
This has a HUGE impact on your weight.
Imagine gaining 9 times as much weight over the course of a year of poor sleep as you normally would had you slept well.
If you are feeling exhausted from not sleeping well, than your body is going to urge you to reach for food as a way to sustain your energy.
This is your body’s way of ensuring your survival!
So if you are watching your weight or struggling to understand why your best efforts are not good enough to prevent you from gaining weight, examine your sleep.
Sleep deprivation is incredibly stressful to the body.
Sleep deprivation impacts you from head to toe… decreasing your concentration, increasing your likelihood of accidents and impairing your judgement.
Encouraging your child to stay up all night cramming for exams?
I’d rather my children get a good night’s sleep and feel centered and clear headed for any exam they have to tackle the next day.
Allowing your child to stay out late, pushing bedtime back further and further, in order to fit in three different after school activities plus dinner and homework?
Not a great long term plan.
I’d recommend picking the one or two activities that truly nurture your child’s soul and letting the others fall away.
Which is advice I’d recommend for an adult as well… for you!… if you find that your To Do list exceeds what you can possibly get done in a normal day.
Pick to commit to your soul’s **Yes’s*** and let your soul’s **No Thank You’s*** go!
Children’s bodies are growing.
They absolutely *require* deep, restorative sleep at night. It is non-negotiable.
In order to deeply release, deeply repair, deeply relax and be ready to face the next day, we ALL need sleep…
…and most of all, our children need sleep.
Generally, as a parent you can have more influence over a young child’s bedtime than you can over when they wake up in the morning, so it’s super important that you gently instill a loving and connected bedtime routine that starts earlier than 8 PM.
For help establishing a bedtime routine in toddlers, I wrote and illustrated a bedtime picture book called
It is a calming and peaceful bedtime story full of illustrations of families all over the world tucking into bed at night together, and it includes a helpful go-to-sleep guide for parents in the back of the book.
In it, I explain my absolutely favorite ways to help create a soothing bedtime routine…
…simple things you can do with your child immediately, that very night, to pave the way for a restorative night of sleep for your precious little one.
Sleeping well and developing good sleep habits are an extremely important part of a healthy lifestyle.
Model this for your children tonight by making sleep a priority in your own life!
Need some more ideas on how to catch your own sleep?
Hop over here to watch a quick video I made that will walk you through my 6 favorite, unusual but highly effective ways to relieve insomnia tonight!