If you’ve been worried about your child’s weight and you’ve had a hunch their sleep habits may be partly to blame, you may be right.
A new study published in JAMA Pediatrics, the pediatric publication of the Journal of the American Medical Association, looked at 804 adolescents ranging from 12 to 17 years old. It found that being a night owl and something called “social jet lag” may be contributing to weight gain in adolescent girls. The same correlation was not seen in boys.
Social jet lag refers to the difference in sleep patterns between weekdays and weekends. If your child wakes early for school on weekdays, then stays up late and sleeps waaaay in on Saturday and Sunday mornings, you’ve probably seen this firsthand.
Previous research indicates that inadequate sleep in general may lead to childhood obesity. That’s because it wreaks havoc on the body’s metabolism and endocrine system, especially during childhood, when bodies are still developing.
If you’ve got a night owl, try helping your child maintain a more regular sleep schedule that allows for the adequate amount of shut-eye. The National Sleep Foundation recommends children 6-13 years old get nine to 11 hours each night. Parents of preschoolers and toddlers should aim for 10 to 14 hours each night.
Putting your child to bed at more or less the same time each night, including weekends, may help regulate their sleep patterns. When paired with a healthy diet and exercise plan, it can make a significant difference and may be worth a try.