Lack of sleep in children: obesity, poor diet and more screens

Lack of sleep in children is associated with poor diet, obesity and increased screen time.

A study of over 177,000 students has shown that insufficient sleep duration is associated with an unhealthy lifestyle in children and adolescents. The results were published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

Lack of sleep in children is associated with poor diet, obesity and increased screen time. According to the results of this study, approximately 40% of the school children who participated in the study slept less than recommended, insufficient sleep duration is associated with unhealthy eating habits such as skipping breakfast, eating in fast food restaurants or eat sweets regularly. Lack of sleep is also linked to an increase in time spent watching TV and to being overweight or obese.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends:

– to children from 6 to 12 years old to sleep regularly for 9 to 12 hours in order to stay in better health.

– adolescents aged 13 to 18 should sleep for 8 to 10 hours.

Lack of sleep: decrease in physical potentials

Another interesting school health survey was conducted in Greece among 177,091 children (51% boys) aged 8-17. Eating habits, usual hours of sleep on weekdays and weekends, physical activity and sedentary activities were assessed using electronic questionnaires completed at school.

Children who reported usually sleeping less than nine hours a day and adolescents who slept less than eight hours a day were classified as having insufficient sleep. Anthropometric measurements and physical fitness measurements were obtained by physical education teachers. A greater proportion of boys than girls (42.3% versus 37.3%) and children than adolescents ( 42.1% vs. 32.8%) reported insufficient sleep duration.

The better you sleep, the better your physical condition

Teens who were sleep deprived had lower aerobic potential and also engaged in less physical activity. Aerobic potential is associated with sleep. The most surprising finding from this study is that aerobic potential is associated with sleep patterns.

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In other words, better sleep habits were associated with better levels of aerobic fitness. We can assume that getting enough sleep leads to higher energy levels during the day. Therefore, children who sleep well may be more physically active during the day and therefore have greater aerobic capacity.

The authors noted that the findings contribute to the development of interventions to help students improve sleep duration. Insufficient sleep duration in children is a neglected health problem. “Given these epidemiological findings, parents, teachers, and healthcare professionals should promote strategies that emphasize healthy sleep habits for school-aged children in terms of quality and duration.”


Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine (DOI:10.5664/jcsm.7374).


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