Is sleep deprivation a contributor to obesity in children?


Chronic lack of sleep (called “sleep deprivation”) is common in modern societies with 24/7 availability of commodities. Accumulating evidence supports the role of reduced sleep as contributing to the current obesity epidemic in children and youth. Longitudinal studies have consistently shown that short sleep duration is associated with weight gain and the development of obesity. Recent experimental studies have reported that sleep restriction leads to weight gain in humans. Increased food intake appears to be the main mechanism by which insufficient sleep results in weight gain. Voluntary sleep restriction has been shown to increase snacking, the number of meals eaten per day, and the preference for energy-dense foods. Although the causes of sleep loss in the pediatric population are numerous, more research looking at screen exposure before bedtime and its effects on sleep is needed given the pervasiveness of electronic media devices in today’s environment. Health professionals should routinely ask questions about sleep and promote a good night’s sleep because insufficient sleep impacts activity and eating behaviors. Future research should examine the clinical benefits of increasing sleep duration on eating behaviors and body weight control and determine the importance of adequate sleep to improve the treatment of obesity.

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Jean-Philippe Chaput holds a Junior Research Chair in Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research.

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Chaput, J. Is sleep deprivation a contributor to obesity in children?. Eat Weight Disord 21, 5–11 (2016).

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  • Sleep loss
  • Adiposity
  • Appetite
  • Eating behavior
  • Energy balance
  • Exercise