A new study conducted among 177,000 students and carried out by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine has found out that inadequate sleep in children and adolescents is linked with unhealthy lifestyle profile such as poor diet and more screen time.

The results of the study specifically link improper sleep with unhealthy eating habits such as skipping breakfast, fast-food consumption and consuming sweets on a daily basis. Poor sleep is also associated with increased screen time and being overweight or obese. The results were published in the October issues of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

The senior author of the study, Labros Sidossis, Ph.D. at the Department of Kinesiology and Health at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, says that 40% of children in the study slept significantly less than recommended. Sleep experts at the American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommend that children aged from 6 to 12 must sleep 9 to 12 hours per night on a regular basis. Teenagers aged 13 to 18 require 8 to 10 hours of sleep per night. Sleeping less than the recommended amount may jeopardize children’s health. Poor sleep and bad sleeping habits were linked to poor dietary habits, obesity and increased screen time in both genders.

The participants of the study were required to complete electronic surveys at school which included providing information on their dietary habits, typical sleeping hours, physical activity, and sedentary activities. The participants of the study were children aged from 8 to 17. The results of the study show that children and teens who reported sleep less than 9 or 8 hours per night also had lower physical activity. Their physical education teachers obtained physical activity status and anthropometric fitness measurements.

Dr. Sidossis was surprised that aerobic fitness was associated with children’s sleep habits. Simply explained, better sleep habits are associated with higher levels of aerobic fitness. Since adequate sleep results in higher energy levels during the day, researchers believe that kids who sleep well are more physically active during the day. Poor sleep among school-aged children is a severe health problem in Westernized societies, and all findings aim to help parents, teachers and health professionals to identify particular sleeping problems and successfully promote strategies that will encourage healthier sleeping patterns and better sleeping habits.


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