Less Sleep May Cause Teen Obesity

Boy asleep on desk

Less sleep could tip the scales toward obesity for teens. New research shows that teen boys, in particular, put themselves at greater risk for weight gain by not getting enough rest. Although we know young children and adults with a sleep deficit are at risk for obesity, there hasn’t been much research done on teens.

Scientists from Seattle Children’s Research Institute collected data from over 700 male and female teens. Each wore an accelerometer to determine their activity level. They reported their diet and sleep habits, both during the week and on weekends.

The results showed that middle school-aged boys who got less sleep were more likely to be overweight, followed by high school-aged boys. For girls, sleep had little effect on weight. The reason for this is unclear, but the investigators think girls may just be biologically better at dealing with environmental stress.

Leslie Lytle, who led the study, said in a news release, “Sleep has long been recognized as an important health behavior…We are just beginning to recognize its relationship to overweight and obesity in children and adults alike.”

Sleep deprivation affects more than just your waistline. People who get less than six hours a night are more likely to develop diabetes, high blood pressure, and depression.

For teens, pressure from friends, relatives and teachers can create a great deal of stress that affects sleep. It’s also tempting for teens to stay up late cramming for an exam or text messaging friends. The fact is, teens need at least 9 hours of sleep each night. Parents can help by creating a nightly routine and making sleep a priority.

Missing a few hours of sleep here and there may not seem like a big deal, but over time, the lack of shut-eye can be damaging. Getting enough rest is just as important as diet and exercise to a healthy lifestyle. Instead of allowing kids to stay up late playing video games, for instance, parents can instead help create healthy sleep habits. If your child has trouble sleeping on a regular basis, you might also try alternative or natural remedies.

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