Childhood obesity and sleep
Christopher Spiekerman, MD, is a board-certified pediatrician with Banner Estrella Medical Center.
Question: I recently read that the amount of sleep your child gets determines if they are going to be overweight or not. My child is 4-years-old and still has baby fat. Should I increase the amount of sleep he gets?
Answer: Many things come into play when talking about childhood obesity. Being well-rested is important in that it gives your son the energy he needs to be active during the day and the more active he is, the more likely he will remain at a healthy weight.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends that children receive 10 to 11 hours of sleep on weekdays and continue a regular sleep pattern into the weekend whenever possible. Even one additional hour a day could have a significant positive effect on BMI and overweight status.
However, if your 4-year-old still has “baby fat,” I would encourage you to take a look at the overall picture, not just his sleep patterns. Studies have shown that children who do not slim down after 2 years of age (when they are toddling all over the place) are often obese later in life.
For the most part, childhood obesity is simple mathematics. Obese children eat more calories than they expend during their typical day.
You can help your son now by making changes that will encourage healthy habits as he gets older. If advised by your physician, you can start him drinking skim milk instead of whole milk or give him water instead of juice, which is high in sugar. Eat vegetables at every meal. Encourage him to run, play, exercise outdoors. In today’s culture, it is too easy for a child to play basketball on Playstation instead of in their own backyard.
Heredity plays a large part in obesity as well. Does your family have a history of obesity? If so, you might talk with your pediatrician regarding your genetic history and get your physician’s recommendations on what you can do to help your son grow up healthy.