Parents Bad Sleep Habits May Affect Children's Weight


You already know that skimping on sleep boosts your appetite and causes weight again. Now, a University of Illinois study shows that your poor sleep habits can make your kid overweight, too. 

Researchers analyzed the nighttime schedules of 337 preschool children and their parents, assessing four factors: Whether the family received seven hours of sleep, how many hours of television they watched, how often they ate dinner together, and whether family members had televisions in their bedrooms. The most significant factor for whether a child was overweight was inadequate sleep — kids who didn’t sleep enough were 3 times more likely to be overweight; for parents, who got fewer than seven hours of sleep per night, their children were 1.3 times more likely to be overweight. 

“Although we didn’t study why a parent’s sleep schedule is connected to their child’s obesity risk, we believe that if parents aren’t getting enough sleep, the entire household routine is disrupted,” lead study author Barbara Fiese, PhD, professor of human development and family studies, tells Yahoo Shine. Some theories: When parents are exhausted, they may inadvertently speed the pace of dinner (and eating rapidly has been proven to cause weight gain) in an effort to get kids to bed sooner and there may be less focus on serving healthy meals. Fatigued families may also be less likely to exercise. 

Plus, kids who are exhausted experience hormonal changes that cause them to crave more sweet and fatty foods, which in turn causes lethargy and a dip in metabolism. And while Fiese’s study didn’t examine how much weight the parents gained, plenty of studies have shown a connection between sleep and adult weight gain. 

A smart way to protect your family from obesity is to streamline your evening routine. Here are three suggestions: 

Reduce screen time: Watching a movie with your kid after dinner is one thing — zoning out all night in front of the television is another. That’s because long periods of inactivity chip away at muscle mass and cause metabolism to drop, according to a University of South Carolina study. 

Eat dinner together: With conflicting work schedules, it can be hard for families to sync up for evening meals, but making an effort can help prevent obesity in children, according to one study conducted by Rutgers University. Kids who eat dinner with their parents typically consume more produce and less junk food and have a lower mass body index (BMI) than those who don’t. 

Make bedtime consistent: If your bedtime is wildly erratic, you’re more likely to gain weight, according to research published in the American Journal of Health Promotion. Specifically, women who change the time they go to sleep by more than 90 minutes during the week have more body fat than those with regular bedtimes. The idea is, when your body can’t anticipate rest, it releases hunger hormones. And if you can’t get yourself to bed on time, how can you do the same for your kids?