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Copyright © 2008 Massachussetts Medical Society. All rights reserved.


Infants and toddlers who sleep fewer than 12 hours per day have higher risk for being overweight at age 3 years than children who sleep 12 hours or more.

Several studies in adults have linked sleep deprivation with weight gain, obesity, and coronary artery disease. Lack of sleep causes decreases in the hormone leptin and increases in the hormone ghrelin, and this combination might cause increased hunger beyond a person’s energy expenditure. To examine whether sleep duration in infancy and early childhood correlates with adiposity at age 3 years, researchers conducted a longitudinal study in 915 infants (defined as ages 6 months to 2 years).

Mothers reported their children’s total daily sleep duration (naps and nighttime sleep) at ages 6 months, 1 year, and 2 years and hours of active play and television watching at 2 years. Children’s weight, height, and skinfold thickness were measured at ages 6 months and 3 years. Overall, only 9% of children were overweight (BMI>95th percentile for age and sex) at age 3 years. However, the proportion of children who were overweight at age 3 years was significantly higher among those who slept fewer than 12 hours per day on average than among those who slept 12 or more hours (12% vs. 7%). Average sleep duration of fewer than 12 hours per day was significantly associated with higher BMI z scores and higher subscapular …

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