For Children, Healthy Sleep Helps Keeps Obesity Away

That both sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) and short sleep duration are associated with childhood obesity is an accepted fact. But do they have any independent associations with obesity throughout childhood? Do they confound each other’s association with subsequent obesity?

Interestingly, this has remained unexplored. A study by Karen Bonuck, PhD, Ronald D. Chervin, MD, MS and Laura D. Howe, PhD set out to address the above gaps in knowledge, using data from a longitudinal cohort study.

Research studies strongly indicate that early childhood is a key period for excess weight gain. Sleep patterns in early childhood are more predictive of overweight in late childhood and adolescence. This study thus examined the independent impact of both SDB and sleep duration in early childhood on BMI, later in childhood and adolescence. Secondarily, it also examined associations with underweight and short stature that can occur with severe, untreated SDB in early life.

Their findings suggest that though SDB and sleep duration share multiple common pathways to obesity in children, their effects are of comparable magnitude and independent of each other in increasing children’s odds of becoming overweight. They affirm the concept of healthy sleep as a foundation for healthy weight throughout childhood and into adulthood. It also underscores the potential importance of early identification and remediation of both SDB and insufficient sleep as strategies for reducing childhood obesity.

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