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August 1, 2011

Sleepy Summer

The Hood Answer Mom, Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D.

My kids have been sleeping in nearly every morning this summer, a drastic change from the get-up-and-go mornings we have around here during the school year.  I'm an early morning riser, and, as much as I would like to rouse them, the health professional in me knows that slumber is good for my kids, and yours

The benefits of sleep

Sleep is energizing. It keeps us physically healthy, and, possibly, in a better frame of mind.  Sleeping enough is also related to easier weight control in kids, and adults.  

The latest study on the subject is from New Zealand researchers(http://www.bmj.com/content/342/bmj.d2712.full) , who found that children who slept more as preschoolers had a healthier Body Mass Index (BMI) at age seven than kids who slept less.

A 2010 study in article in the journal Sleep ( http://www.journalsleep.org/ViewAbstract.aspx?pid=27900 ) found that sleep-deprived teens consumed more fat calories, snacked more than kids who slept eight or longer every night, and ate more total calories.  

Researchers aren't sure about the exact mechanisms linking adequate sleep to a healthier weight, but they have some theories.

Less time awake may translate into less time spent snacking, which may account for the differences between children who sleep enough, and those who don't. Or the differences in weight may be linked to the fact that sleep deprivation increases the levels of ghrelin, a hormone that boosts appetite.

How much sleep for kids?

The National Sleep Foundation recommends that preschoolers aged 3 to 5 sleep 11 to 13 hours daily and children ages 5 to 10 sleep 10 to 11 hours. Teens need between 8.5 and nearly 10 hours of slumber a night. 

While younger children typically have a sleep pattern similar to adults, your teen may want to sleep the day away. Don't be too hard on him!  His body "clock" is not the same as a younger child's, or an adult's.

During the teen years, the body's sleep/wake rhythms are reset, but the effect is temporary. A teenager's body tells him to go to bed later and wake up later, too.  That's part of the reason why older children have a hard time getting up for school.

Teens should try to fall asleep as early as possible when they need to wake early.  Reducing the amount of TV watching and Internet use may help kids sleep better. Having a TV in the bedroom increases the chances your child will have trouble sleeping. 

Sleep, a beneficial habit

Summer is a great time to catch up on sleep, but it's important to remember that sleep should be high priority, year-round.  Childhood is a time when kids are establishing the health habits that often last a lifetime. Along with a balanced diet and regular exercise, getting enough sleep may be the key to lifelong weight control.


Elizabeth M. Ward

Elizabeth M. Ward

Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D., is a writer, nutrition consultant, and mother of three. She is the author of several books, including MyPlate for Moms, How to Feed Yourself & Your Family Better and Expect the Best, Your Guide to Healthy Eating Before, During, & After Pregnancy . Ward is also a contributing writer for Muscle & Fitness Hers and Men's Fitness magazines.

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