Does Lack of Sleep Increase a Child’s Risk of Obesity?

Does Lack of Sleep Increase a Child’s Risk of Obesity?

Yes! In an analysis of more than 50 studies involving about 100,000 patients, a link has been found between children who get shorter amounts of sleep and an increased risk of becoming overweight or obese. This review was conducted by Valley Medical Center family medicine physicians, Zeva (Daniela) Herzog, MD of Cascade Primary Care and Kristin Thai, DO of Kent Station Primary Care. The results of their review were published recently in The Journal of Family Practice, December 2021.

What is the recommended amount of sleep for children?
The review cited the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) pediatric sleep recommendations (per 24 hours):

  • Infants ages 4 to 12 months       12-16 hours
  • Children 1 to 2 years                   11-14 hours
  • Children 3 to 5 years                   10-13 hours
  • Children 6 to 12 years                 9-12 hours
  • Teenagers 13 to 18 years            8-10 hours

The AASM, as well as the Academy of Pediatric Committee on Nutrition, both recognize that sleeping the recommended number of hours was associated with better health outcomes, and that sleeping too few hours increased the risk of various health conditions, including obesity.

The bottom line
Studies demonstrate that short sleep duration in pediatric patients is associated with later weight gain. Note that associations do not prove a causal link, and other factors may contribute to both weight gain and poor sleep. Helping your child get the recommended amount of sleep is linked to overall better health, including maintaining a normal weight.

About The Author

Valley Medical Center's Marketing and Community Outreach Office