Childhood insomnia could lead to obesity

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One of the biggest perks of being a kid is the amount of sleep you get. Depending on their age, children need anywhere between 9 and 16.5 hours per night. According to fresh research, childhood insomnia could be contributing to obesity rates.

There’s no denying that how children live their lives has altered dramatically in recent decades. It seems as though childhood insomnia has become inevitable. If you’re concerned your child is getting enough, it’s time to learn more.

What does the research into childhood insomnia show?

The research focusing on childhood insomnia took place in the UK. Although we have a different healthcare system over here, our population is very similar to the U.S. As such, the results could apply there, too.

According to the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF), 32% of kindergarten children are getting less than nine hours of sleep per night. As children of that age need between 9.5 and 11.5 hours, that’s a significant deficit. An additional 70% of high school children under 16 aren’t getting nine hours of sleep per night either.

Those who didn’t get enough sleep then went on to make poor dietary choices. In addition to skipping breakfast, many were failing to eat fruit and vegetables during the day. As a result, the researchers hypothesized that childhood insomnia could increase a child’s risk of obesity.

Why aren’t our children sleeping enough?

There are plenty of established causes of childhood insomnia. For example, drinking caffeine during the day makes a contribution. Although few children drink Starbucks at the same rate as your average adult, many are likely to consume caffeinated sodas.

Similarly, children are as vulnerable to stress as us adults. From bullying at school through to detecting parental problems at home, they have lots of reasons to worry themselves away from a good night’s sleep. Unfortunately, it seems that today’s modern environment is more stressful for kids than ever. Social media, constant pressure to strive for absolute excellence, and unrealistic body image expectations all play their role.

Overall, children may be expending far less energy than previous generations and they spend less time outside. Access to cars is a commodity rather than a luxury and outdoor play has given way to indoor gaming. As a result, children may have burned less energy by bedtime and their circadian rhythm might be suffering at the hands of fewer outdoor hours.

How can we help children sleep more?

Unlike adults, children don’t take it upon themselves to correct issues such as sleep. While an adult may actively try to spend more time outdoors or more hours exercising, a child requires prompting.

Encourage more outdoor time

When the lure of a Playstation won’t go away, it’s down to parents to encourage more outdoor time. Spending more time outdoors and balancing a child’s circadian rhythm may help them sleep better at night.

Talk to them about their problems

Promote an open and honest environment where children can discuss their concerns free from scrutiny. When they’re able to open up about school-based and hometime worries, they’ll feel less stressed.

Cut out the caffeine

Look out for hidden sources of caffeine in sodas and non-fizzy drinks. Each one you catch contributes toward a better night’s sleep.

Practice exercise and meditation

Find a fun activity that helps your child burn away excess energy during the day. Additionally, as YouTube is brimming with child-friendly meditation and yoga videos, you can explore those avenues too.

If childhood insomnia is plaguing your household, all hope is not lost. With a little practice, you can refine your child’s sleep schedule and help cut their obesity risk.


About the Author

Laura McKeever
Laura has been a freelance medical writer for eight years. With a BSc in Medical Sciences and an MSc in Physician Assistant Studies, she complements her passion for medical news with real-life experiences. Laura’s most significant experience included writing for international pharmaceutical brands, including GSK.