According to WebMD sleep disorder experts, children ages five to eight years old should get 9 to 10 hours of sleep each night. Studies have shown that on average, kids this age are only getting 8 hours of sleep of night, which means that some are getting even less.
Teachers have long touted that students who don’t get enough sleep don’t do as well in school but now it is also clear that lack of sleep is contributing to the fastest growing health threat against children- obesity.
Details of the study on correlations between sleep and obesity in children:
The University of Chicago studied sleep patterns and Body Mass Index of 308 children in the 4 to 10 year old age range. Using wrist actigraphs, researchers were able to track when the children were asleep. The children were divided into 9 groups and the group of children with the most normal sleep patterns had a lowered risk of not only obesity but also metabolic complications.
Conclusions from the study on correlations between sleep and obesity in children:
-Constant bedtimes and wake up times are best.
-Kids most at risk are those not getting enough sleep and irregular patterns too, which had a four-fold increase in their risk for obesity.
-Catching up on the weekends does help. In fact it cut the risk to less to 2.8 fold but obviously is still not as ideal as adequate and consistent sleep.
According to David Gozal, the chair of the pediatrics department at the University of Chicago and the lead author of the report, parents are “not aware there’s a very substantial price to pay for shortening the duration of sleep and for creating very irregular sleep schedules. Together these create a much higher risk of obesity.”
Some parents do get it. Nancy Pauley, mother of four, puts her kids to bed at 7:30 p.m. each evening. She has taken some ribbing over the years from other parents who think an early bedtime is simply a convenience for parents. “My kids have to get up really early to catch the bus and I know what they need,” explains Nancy.
Why don’t kids have consistent bedtimes?
Parents site many reasons for varying bedtimes from television movie schedules, to too much homework, to away sports games. For some parents, bedtimes vary depending on their work schedules.
“It may be an enjoyable thing to, because you’re coming home late, to be able to spend some time with your child, and have them stay up past their bedtime, but it really can be a detriment to their health in the long run,” says Michael J. Breus, PhD and sleep disorder specialist.
Karren Bratcher, mother of four children from ages one to sixteen, can relate to this one. “When my kids were younger and I worked late a couple of nights a week, mine wanted to stay up until I got home at 10:30. I let them and I shouldn’t have,” admits Karren.
Karren also points out that having young children with older teens in the house makes bedtimes more challenging as well.
“When the older kids are staying up later, the younger ones will fight bedtimes harder, says Karren.
Doctors warn though that those teens need more sleep too, at least eight hours a night. Recent studies have also seen correlations between lack of sleep and obesity in teens too. Teens who get less than eight hours of sleep eat more snacks, more fatty foods, crave more carbohydrates and take in more calories overall.
Breus warns that with inadequate sleep, “your teen is more at risk for obesity and all the health problems connected to that (like) high blood pressure, heart disease, (and) stroke.”
Math Word Problems for Parents: What should be my child’s bedtime?
If my eight-year-old child needs 9 hours of sleep and she has to get up at 6:00, then what time should she go to bed?
Her bedtime should be no later than 8:30, accounting for the time it takes to fall asleep by 9:00 and get a full 9 hours of sleep.
If my thirteen-year-old needs 8 hours of sleep and he has to get up 7:00, then what time should he to bed?
He should go to be no later than 9:30, accounting for the time it takes to fall asleep by 10:00 and get a full 8 hours of sleep.
Do your children have a consistent bedtime?
Interview with Nancy Pauley, 12/13/10
Interview with Karren Bratcher, 2/9/11