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Posted: Wednesday, 21 May 2014 9:03AM

Children and lack of sleep equals obesity?

Are your children getting enough sleep?  Many don't and a study done at Massachusetts General Hospital for children says they run the risk of becoming obese if they don't get enough rest.  

Dr. Melinda Sothern, Professor and Director of Behavioral and Community Health at the LSUHSC School of Public Health says it's only one factor, but there is an important message from the study.

"There's some sort of biological theories that suggest that when a child is not sleeping properly, that they may be under high stress," she explained.  "When a child is under stress, it releases inflammatory markers or chemicals, and those may actually alter the metabolism and make the child more prone to becoming overweight."

Dr. Sothern said the study done on children was actually measured objectively.

"They measured the amount of fat especially around the stomach, and it was associated with  children having more fat around the stomach if they had less sleep," the doctor said.  "The fat around the stomach is the dangerous fat.  It's the fat that's associated to all the chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes."  

She adds that children who are obese at age 8 are more likely to be obese adults.

Dr. Sothern goes on to explain how much sleep children need.

"According to the National Sleep foundation, infants 3 to 11 months should get 9 to 12 hours during the night, not including naps during the day.  Toddlers age 1 to 3 need 12 to 14 hours in a 24 hour period.  Children 3 to 5 should sleep 11 to 13 hours a night," said Dr. Sothern.   

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