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May 23, 2013

Poor Diet Negatively Impacts Sleep Patterns in Middle-School Children

Among children, a link found between diet and sleep may be the key to promoting better heart health as adults.

With one in three children overweight or obese, it’s more important than ever that we promote a healthy weight among children. Children are beginning to develop risk factors for heart disease at a very young age and we need to break this cycle and help children achieve a healthy weight. And according to a study presented at the European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, the link found between diet and sleep may be the key to promoting better health among children.

This study was conducted by researchers at the University of Copenhagen, tracking the sleep and dietary behaviors of nearly 670 Danish children between the ages of 8 and 11. Each child was followed for a total of 8 days, during which time researchers monitored their sleep patterns and parents completed a food log and questionnaire on their children’s’ sleep habits. After analysis, this Danish research team found that children consuming higher-calorie diets, high in sugar and sugar-sweetened beverages, were more likely to get less sleep than those with healthier diets. In addition, children with diets high in sugar and sugar-sweetened beverages were more likely to have more variability in their sleep duration, and children with high-calorie diets were more likely to experience sleep problems.

Based on these findings, diet has a significant impact on the sleep habits of middle-school children. Not only does a poor diet, high in calories and sugar, increase risk for obesity, it also may increase risk for sleep problems. Sleep is crucial to our health, especially among growing children, and not getting enough sleep is linked to a number of health problems, including obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. If children have a poor diet, which then harms sleep patterns, this double-whammy could put children at further risk for obesity and serious health problems down the road.  If we can help children improve their diets, this lifestyle change may then improve sleep patterns and reduce risk for obesity and promote better health.

Questions for You to Consider

  • How much sleep is recommended each night for adults?

  • Although there is no magic number that is right for everyone, most adults require 7-9 hours of sleep each night. However, everyone is different. Some adults may need 7 hours of sleep each night to feel alert the next day, while others may require 9 hours to feel well-rested and awake.
  • Why is sleep important?
  • Sleep is a critical part of our health and well-being. Sleep helps promote good physical and mental health, and not getting enough sleep can increase risk for obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. If you have trouble sleeping, it’s important to talk with your doctor about steps to improve your sleep patterns.

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