A US study has found that a lack of sleep is related to the onset of obesity in young children. Data was analysed from a nationwide survey in 1997 and 2002, which found that babies and children up to the age of 4, who did not sleep enough, were 80% more likely to be obese 5 years later than infants who slept longer. Furthermore, the effects could last well into later life. However, no link was found between obesity and a lack of sleep in older children.
Researchers also found that day time napping could not replace the beneficial effects of night time sleep, as sleeping during the day performs a different function to the sleep received during the night, as it involves complex biological, psychological and restorative functions that can’t be matched by daytime naps, which only offer a short burst of rejuvenation that works to reduce stress and help a child be more alert for learning.
The author of the study, Dr Janice Bell from the University of Washington commented; "This is something we may be able to change to address the ongoing obesity problem."
It seems that by recognising the repercussions linked to insufficient sleep in infants, the risks can be corrected and the road to unhealthy living can be diverted towards a future of health, through increased sleep, giving a child a promising start and reiterating the importance of sleep upon overall health.