Sleep Deprivation May Contribute to Childhood Obesity

2012-02-20 08:08:58 by Greg Omlor, MD, director of Pulmonary Medicine and Sleep Center, as posted on the blog.

There’s growing recognition of the correlation between sleep deprivation and weight gain. National talk shows, magazines and doctors are addressing the benefits of sleep in the mounting fight against childhood obesity.

Considering all of the recent media attention, it’s important to understand the context behind the conversation.

Emerging research has determined a link to hormonal imbalances and a shift in brain activity caused by long-term reductions in sleep, which may eventually lead to weight gain.

As early as 2007, the American Academy of Pediatrics conducted a study among children, ages 9-12, and found a link between shorter sleep duration and obesity. The study found that for every one additional hour of sleep, the child was 20 percent less likely to be overweight.

A study released earlier this year by the Endocrine Society provided more insight into the correlation. The findings suggest that sleep deprivation stimulates appetite, implying that sleep-deprived individuals are more sensitive to food stimuli.

Study participants were hungrier after sleep deprivation, and the frontal cortex – the area of the brain associated with eating – became more active when shown images of food.

Because behavioral clues are often the first signs of potential sleep-related issues, it’s important to not only manage your child’s bedtime, but also evaluate their overall habits and actions.

At Akron Children’s Hospital’s Sleep Center, we’ve developed tools and information, including a checklist of symptoms, to help determine if your child might benefit from a sleep disorder evaluation.

But before making a decision, it’s important to discuss any concerns with your child’s pediatrician. Be sure to talk with your child’s pediatrician about these studies, as well as symptoms your child exhibits. Together, you can determine the best course of action.

To learn more about sleep disorders or to schedule an appointment, visit or call (330) 543-8318.

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