Image: Zu cloud cushion, via Petit Home
Sleep is vital to maintaining a healthy weight – especially for young children. A new study from the The University of Illinois Family Resiliency Center has shown that getting enough sleep is even more important than limiting screen time and regular family mealtimes when it comes to determining whether or not a child will be overweight or obese.
But it’s not just a child’s bedtime that matters. The quality and quantity of sleep parents get affects children’s health too. Parents who don’t sleep enough are more likely to have kids who don’t sleep enough.
“We viewed how long parents slept and how long children slept as part of a household routine and found that they really did go together,” the centre’s director Barbara H. Fiese said in a release to the press.
“Parents should make being well rested a family value and a priority. Sleep routines in a family affect all the members of the household, not just children; we know that parents won’t get a good night’s sleep unless and until their preschool children are sleeping.”
The study looked into four factors that could be protective against obesity – getting enough sleep, not having a television in the bedroom, limiting screen time, and regular family meal times – and found that of the four, getting enough sleep was the only reliable factor in protecting against childhood obesity. Even households that had all three of the other protective factors in place fared worse than homes where the family was well slept.
While limited screen time was not a statistically relevant factor in protecting against obesity, Fiese said that switching off before bedtime was extremely important to achieving the recommended amount of sleep, around ten hours for children, and seven to eight hours for parents. “We’re learning more and more about how important it is to unplug for a half-hour or so before we go to bed. At a certain time, turn off your electronic devices—even e-books— and engage in whatever soothing ritual helps you to relax enough to sleep.”
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