Research shows toddlers who sleep for longer have a reduced likelihood of gaining weight. Sleeping for 12-13 hours has been identified to reduce the calorie intake children may have the next day. The research conducted on 2,500 children aged 16 months found those who had fewer hours sleep, particularly under 10 hours, consumed on average 105kcal more calories, which is a tenth higher than their long-resting counterparts.
The study, by University College London, monitored over 1000 sets of twins, tracking their diets for a five month period. Researchers have concluded, although the reason for such a calorie intake difference is unclear, there is a theory the regulation of appetite hormones are altered by shortening sleeping patterns.
Dr Abi Fisher, from the UCL Health Behaviour Research Centre, said: “We know shorter sleep in early life increases the chances of obesity so we wanted to understand whether shorter sleeping children consume more calories. Previous studies in adults and children have shown sleep defects causes individuals to eat more however in early life parents make most of the decisions about when and how much their children eat- so young children might show different patterns.”
Obesity campaigners also note fatigued infants are more likely to become irritable and in conjunction parents are likely to give in to letting them eat more regular snacks, or unhealthy sugar dense foods. Tam Fry, of the National Obesity Forum, said: “When adults have limited sleep they snack more and feed themselves with comfort food. It’s slightly different with babies as they become irritable so parents give them more food to soothe them believing it’s an act of love.”
Weight gain has renowned and well documented links to decreased amounts of sleep in adults. Sourcing a good 8 hour sleep may prevent hormone imbalance, decrease appetite and might play a role in regulating insulin levels. The relationship between sleep and infants may be even more important due to their state of growth.
There may be simple solutions to boost sleeping habits and help bridge the gap from hyperactivity to peaceful sleeping. The NHS recommend keeping the lights dimmer for an hour or so before time for bed so the eyes become used to the dimmer environment. Consistent bed times also have a range of benefits. Routines for infants and toddlers from bathing, bed time stories, brushing teeth and time to sleep might help set a relaxing atmosphere. Potentially, a body clock may be created for a child so they have a natural idea of when to sleep and when to wake up.
Turning off the television at least two hours before bed time might also help maintain healthy sleep cycles. The light from a computer or television screen might interfere with the body’s natural ability to create melatonin, an important part of the sleep cycle system.
Most individuals go to bed feeling sleepy before turning on the TV, altering their hormone levels and eyes enough to keep them up for an added couple of hours. A cool room temperature may be the final piece of the jigsaw, as melatonin levels also help regulate the drop of internal body temperature needed for sleep. By managing the external temperature, it may be possible to help control sleeping patterns room temperature or a slightly cooler may be the best way to promote this.
What routine might be the most effective for a good night sleep?