Based on the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics (2016), which established adequate sleep to be between nine and 12 hours a night for children aged 6 to 12, the research aimed to analyse “the relationship between irregular sleeping habits”, (more or less time than recommended) and “the risk of obesity in the Portuguese paediatric population”.
The researchers studied the sleep habits of 8,273 children (4,183 females) between the ages of six and nine, as well as “physical activity and sedentary behaviours (e.g. time spent watching television or playing computer games), through questionnaires completed by the parents”, said the University of Coimbra (UC), in a statement sent to Lusa News Agency on Monday.
The relationship between sleep habits and the risk of obesity for boys and girls were calculated separately.
The results, published in the American Journal of Human Biology, show that “boys who had irregular sleep habits for their age, that is, either below 9 hours/night or more than 12 hours/night, during the week, are 128 percent more likely to be classified as overweight compared to those who slept for the recommended time”, said researcher Aristides Machado-Rodrigues.
Interestingly, but similar to the results of some previous studies, among girls, “there were no significant associations between sleep duration and risk of obesity, either on weekdays or during the weekend”, said the CIAS investigator, quoted by the UC.
But, argues Machado-Rodrigues, “compliance with recommended sleep habits in childhood” is “a crucial aspect of cognitive health and the harmonious development of children”.
Obesity is considered one of the epidemics of the 21st century due to the fact that it is associated with numerous cardiovascular diseases, especially metabolic and cardiovascular diseases. Machado-Rodrigues points out “its multifactorial etiology”, referring to “the existence of a broad set of variables, biological, genetic, social and behavioural, that contribute decisively to the fact that an individual may suffer from increased adiposity compared to the standard pattern”.
In recent years, epidemiological studies have reported that irregular sleep duration may be an additional risk factor for obesity among children. The UC concluded, “sleeping habits are those that have been the focus of least attention compared to other daily behaviours, such as physical activity, nutritional habits or even sedentary lifestyle”.