There’s a new reason to get strict about bedtimes. A new study from the University of Washington reveals that infants and young children who don’t get a good night’s sleep are more likely to suffer from childhood obesity. The study began in 1997 and monitored 1,930 children under the age of 13.
For children under the age of four when the study began, those who slept for only a short time were more likely to be overweight or obese. Daytime naps did not help the problem, and was not a substitute for nighttime sleep. Older children who slept less at night did not seem to reflect the same weight gain. The authors of the study call this the age “window” for weight gain. “These findings suggest that there is a critical window prior to age 5 years when nighttime sleep may be important for subsequent obesity status,” they write.
However, the importance of sleep in the biological mechanism that leads to weight gain is unknown. The researchers speculate that a lack of sleep influences the portion of the brain that regulates tiredness and metabolism.