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REM sleep associated with overweight in children and adolescents

WESTCHESTER, Ill. Short sleep time is associated with overweight in children and adolescents, a core aspect of which may be attributed to reduced REM sleep, according to a research abstract that will be presented on Thursday at SLEEP 2008, the 22nd Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies (APSS).

The study, authored by Xianchen Liu, MD, PhD, of the University of Pittsburgh, focused on 335 participants between seven and 17 years of age, who underwent three consecutive nights of standard polysomnography, or an overnight sleep test, and weight and height assessment as part of study on the development of childhood internalizing disorders (depression and anxiety).

According to the results, compared with normal-weight children, overweight children slept about 22 minutes less, had lower sleep efficiency, shorter REM sleep periods, lower REM activity and density, and longer latency to the first REM period. After adjustment for demographics, pubertal status, ethnicity, and psychiatric diagnosis, one hour less of total sleep increased the odds of overweight by about two-fold, one hour less of REM sleep increased the odds by about three-fold, REM density and activity below the median increased the odds by two- and three-fold, respectively.

Given the fact that the prevalence of overweight among children and adolescents continues to increase, and chronic sleep insufficiency becomes more and more prevalent in the modern society, family and school-based sleep interventions which aim to enhance sleep hygiene and increase sleep duration may have important public health implications for the prevention and intervention of obesity and type-two diabetes in children and adolescents, said Dr. Liu.

Studies have linked sleep deprivation among children and adolescents to increased incidence of obesity and cardiovascular disease, and can also result in behavioral problems, lead to poor academic performance and affect relationships with their peers.

It is recommended that adolescents get nine hours of nightly sleep and school-aged children between 10-11 hours.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) offers the following tips to adolescents on how to get a good nights sleep:

  • Follow a consistent bedtime routine.

  • Establish a relaxing setting at bedtime.

  • Get a full nights sleep every night.

  • Avoid foods or drinks that contain caffeine, as well as any medicine that has a stimulant, prior to bedtime.

  • Do not stay up all hours of the night to cram for an exam, do homework, etc. If after-school activities are proving to be too time-consuming, consider cutting back on these activities.

  • Keep computers and TVs out of the bedroom.

  • Do not go to bed hungry, but dont eat a big meal before bedtime either.

  • Avoid any rigorous exercise within six hours of your bedtime.

  • Make your bedroom quiet, dark and a little bit cool.

  • Get up at the same time every morning.

The AASM offers some tips to help your child sleep better:

  • Follow a consistent bedtime routine. Set aside 10 to 30 minutes to get your child ready to go to sleep each night.

  • Establish a relaxing setting at bedtime.

  • Interact with your child at bedtime. Dont let the TV, computer or video games take your place.

  • Keep your children from TV programs, movies, and video games that are not right for their age.

  • Do not let your child fall asleep while being held, rocked, fed a bottle, or while nursing.

  • At bedtime, do not allow your child to have foods or drinks that contain caffeine. This includes chocolate and sodas. Try not to give him or her any medicine that has a stimulant at bedtime. This includes cough medicines and decongestants.

It is important to make sure that your child gets enough sleep and sleeps well. The value of sleep can be measured by your childs smiling face, happy nature and natural energy. A tired child may have development or behavior problems. A childs sleep problems can also cause unnecessary stress for you and the other members of your family.

Those who suspect that they might be suffering from insomnia, or another sleep disorder, are encouraged to consult with their primary care physician or a sleep specialist. Parents should consult with their childs pediatrician or a sleep specialist.


Contact: Kathleen McCann
American Academy of Sleep Medicine

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