European Congress on Obesity

European Congress on Obesity

May 14, 2013
2 min read

Lack of sleep linked to poor diets in children

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Children who sleep less and have a high variability in sleep duration, besides sleep disturbances, are more likely to develop poor, obesity-promoting diets, according to data presented at the European Congress on Obesity annual meeting.

“Variations in children’s sleep patterns are common phenomena, and observational and experimental studies conducted in adults have reported associations between short sleep and changes in appetite regulating hormones and the brain’s response to specific food stimulations,” Jonas Salling Kjeldsen, BSc, of the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, said during a press conference. “Moreover, short sleep duration, sleepiness and late sleep preference in children have been associated with an increased consumption of and preference for energy dense foods and snacks.”

The researchers measured sleep duration and day-to-day variability in sleep duration in a cross-sectional study of 676 healthy Danish children (aged 8 to 11 years) for 8 nights and administered the Children’s Sleep Habits Questionnaire to parents, Kjeldsen said. To evaluate the dietary risk factors for overweight or obese children, the researchers also recorded diet using a Web-based food record for 7 days and measured plasma leptin and ghrelin levels.

“We observed that every hour the children slept less per night was associated with a 32% increase in energy from sugar-sweetened beverages and a 15% increase in energy from sugar added to the diet, a 4% increase in energy density of the diet and a 3% higher total energy intake,” Kjeldsen said.

He added that energy density of the diet was significantly higher among short-sleepers compared with long-sleepers. This also was the case for sugar added to the diet and intake of sugar-sweetened beverages.

“We also looked at the objectively measured sleep patterns during the week and observed that every 30 minutes of variability in sleep duration was associated with 18% more energy from sugar-sweetened beverages,” he said.

Furthermore, Kjeldsen reported an observation that for every 10-point increase in the total score of the sleep habit questionnaire, more disturbed sleep or sleep problems were associated with a 2% increase in energy density of the diet.

These findings suggest short sleep duration and high variability in sleep duration. In addition, sleep disturbances are linked to a poor, obesity-promoting diet in children, Kjeldsen said.

For more information:

Kjeldsen JS. HTP.043. Presented at: the European Congress on Obesity; May 12-15, 2013; Liverpool, United Kingdom.

Disclosure: Kjeldsen reports no relevant financial disclosures.