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Let Kids Sleep Late on Weekends to Fight Fat: Study
Date:10/28/2009

Too little shuteye contributes to obesity, researchers say

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 28 (HealthDay News) -- Letting children sleep late on weekends and holidays might help them avoid becoming overweight or obese, a new study suggests.

Researchers in Hong Kong found that children who got less sleep tended to be heavier (as measured by body mass index, or BMI) than children who slept more. But among children who slept less than eight hours a night, those who compensated for their weekday sleep deficit by sleeping late on weekends or holidays were significantly less likely to be overweight or obese.

The study, which confirmed previous research linking sleep deficits to obesity in children, also found that, on average, children slept significantly longer on weekends and holidays than on school weekdays. However, the overweight children tended to get less weekend/holiday sleep than their normal-weight peers.

The researchers didn't determine why obese and overweight children were less likely to sleep late on holidays or weekends, but noted that they tended to spend more time doing homework and watching TV than their normal-weight peers.

Biological factors might also play a role in the compressed sleep cycle, they said.

"There's a lot of evidence linking short sleep duration to higher body mass," said Kristen Knutson, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Chicago, who was not involved in the study. "What's unique about this study is that it's the first to show that extending sleep on weekends may help with avoiding weight gain."

Still, the researchers urged caution in the interpretation of their findings, acknowledging that "an irregular sleep-wake schedule and insufficient sleep among school-aged children and adolescents has been documented with a variety of serious repercussions, including increased daytime sleepiness, academic difficulties, and mood and behavioral problems."


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