Remember as a kid you wanted to stay up all night? If you've babysat a kid lately and heard the bedtime protest, maybe you've thought to yourself... Geez, I'll go to bed and you can stay up! Sleep is something that eludes many adults. It's stressful being a grown up and dealing with bills, work and Instagram. But children are starting to share in our grown up sleep-deficiency. Why is this a problem? Let us count the ways...
First up, it's worth knowing how much sleep you actually need:
- Infants - 12-17 hours
- Toddlers - 11-14 hours
- Preschoolers - 10-13 hours
- School age - 9-11 hours
- Teens - 8-10 hours
- Adult years - 9-10 hours
Detailed description here.
The importance of sleep at a basic level covers things like mood, well-being, the ability to function by way of constructing a complete sentence or concentrating effectively at school/work, and "health".
"Health" is a very broad. For the purpose of this article, let's break it down to these:
- Sleep disorders
Research finds 25-50% of preschoolers don't get enough sleep. The study found sleep-disordered breathing (including snoring, sleep apnea and mouth-breathing) strongly predicted obesity risk.
People who don't sleep enough are at a higher risk of obesity. People who don't sleep enough experience changes in their metabolism and hormone levels responsible for regulating hunger and appetite. Thus, feeling hungry and eating more is a sorry side effect for sleep-deprived zombies.
A vicious cycle
If lack of sleep increases one's risk of obesity, how does gaining more weight and becoming more obese impact one's ability to sleep? Negatively. Worsening one, worsens the other. Morbid yes, but face this ugly truth we must.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common type of apnea. OSA is characterised by repeated events of upper airway obstruction occurring whilst sleeping. It often includes snoring, fragmented sleep and daytime sleepiness. Some sobering stats about OSA:
- Prevalence of OSA in obese people is 30%
- Prevalence of OSA in morbidly obese people is 50-98%
- 60-90% of OSA patients are overweight
Fatty tissue accumulated on the abdomen, neck and chest, and within the walls/muscles lining the airway (all associated with obesity) contribute to restricted upper airway size... Thus, OSA. Think about it, sleeping with a 50lb sack of sand on your chest would probably make breathing difficult... Or your boob-job went horribly wrong (sorry, no photo for that).
What to do?
Research found that young shorter-sleepers had significantly higher obesity markers (eg: BMI, body fat, waist and hip circumference and fat mass index). They also had poorer diet quality, which includes things like not eating enough fruit, veg and fish.
Weight gain is particularly associated with lack of sleep in younger age groups (1, 2). It is therefore pertinent to "get on this" when kids are young. Setting kids up for a healthy, happy adulthood is kinda important... and it starts all in the bedroom.