Think it's fine to let your little one stay up late a few times a week? Think again. A new study shows that a child's sleep can be connected to his or her weight later on in life. The research out of Massachusetts General Hospital took a sample of over 1,000 kids between the ages of 6 months and 7 years and found that the children who got the least amount of shut-eye were the ones more prone to higher BMI and higher amounts of overall and midsection fat (which is the most dangerous kind of fat, linked to a higher risk of diabetes and heart disease). Doctors and parents have always known what poor sleep can do to health (ever see an overtired toddler?), but these latest findings show that lack of sleep can affect our children's metabolism for life.
It's worth noting that the study, which followed the children for several years, can't say for sure whether the missed sleep actually caused the kids to put on fat or if other factors the authors didn't take into account were the true culprit. But one theory that connects lack of sleep and weight gain is the ebb and flow of appetite hormones that control hunger.
Of course there will be times when our kids should get to stay up late or skip a nap, but this study reiterates the importance of establishing healthy sleep routines for kids early on. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that kids between the ages of 1 and 3 get between 12 to 14 hours of sleep per day; kids between 3 to 4 years old get 10 hours a day; and children aged 5 to 7 get over nine hours per day. It may not be possible to get the suggested amount every single day, but it's key that parents make sleep a priority for their children as often as possible -- as much as your little ones may dislike you for it.
How many hours of sleep does your child get per day?
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