Kids Need Sleep To Stay Trim

If you're a parent, you may find kids don't necessarily want to go to bed when they should, and they may be prone to sleepiness. That can, obviously, be detrimental if it happens during school.

Researchers in Illinois found children's lack of sleep may have long term consequences as well. There are many factors contributing to children's widening waistlines, but a study out of Northwestern University went beyond unhealthy eating habits and lack of exercise to another basic need: sleep.

More than 2100 children aged 3 to 18 were studied, with follow-ups five years later. Those who slept an extra hour were less likely to be overweight.

"Everybody agrees this is important. People are really getting concerned about this epidemic of childhood obesity because it'll have lifetime effects," said Dr. Donn Dexter, a Sleep Specialist at Luther Hospital.

He says the findings reinforce industry recommendations. Young children need at least 10 hours of sleep, but also need to be active during their daylight hours.

"We know exercise helps reinforce good sleep," said Dr. Dexter.

The other important, more difficult part is keeping sleep times consistent, whether there is school in the morning or not.

"A lot of times during the week you get to enforce a set wake time, but then on the weekends, at least at my house, my teens, they want to sleep in. What's the tough night? Sunday night. You can send them to bed at 9:00, good luck getting them to sleep," said Dr. Dexter.

The study also recommended making school start times later, but shutting the lights off a bit earlier will provide more immediate results.

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