Sleep may be key to childhood obesity fight

WASHINGTON – One of the keys to fighting childhood obesity may be as simple as getting more sleep.

A three-week study of 37 children between the ages of 8 and 11 published in Pediatrics found those who got more sleep ate fewer calories and weighed less. Twenty-seven percent of the participants were overweight or obese.

In the study, the kids slept their normal amount of time the first week. The second week the amount of sleep was either reduced or lengthened. Then in the third week, the participants did the opposite of whatever they did the previous week.

The week that the children slept more they ate on average 134 fewer calories a day and lost about a half pound over a week. The study found children getting more rest had lower levels of leptin, a hormone associated with being overweight.

Chantelle Hart, the researcher who conducted the study, now is working on another study funded by the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health. The new study examines the impact of helping kids to get more sleep and how that might affect their weight, eating habits and activity levels.

Hart, associate professor of public health at Temple’s Center for Obesity Research and Education, says the new study results so far look promising.

“Given all of its documented benefits, in many ways, you can’t lose in promoting a good night’s sleep,” she says.

WTOP’s Kristi King contributed to this story. Follow @kingWTOP, @WTOP and @WTOPliving on Twitter.

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