Washington: A new study has revealed that sleep-related breathing problems and chronic lack of sleep may each double the risk of a child becoming obese by age 15.
Karen Bonuck, Ph.D., professor of family and social medicine and of obstetrics and gynecology and women's health at Einstein and lead author on the paper, said that in recent years, lack of sleep has become a well-recognized risk for childhood obesity and sleep-disordered breathing, or SDB, which includes snoring and sleep apnea, is also a risk factor for obesity but receives less attention. These two risk factors had not been tracked together in children over time to determine their potential for independently influencing weight gain. Our study aimed to fill in that gap.
The researchers found that children with the most severe SDB had the greatest risk for obesity. Those children who fell into the "worst case" SDB category were twice as likely to become obese by 7, 10 and 15 years of age, compared to the asymptomatic group. Children considered "worst case" scored highest for SDB symptoms of snoring, sleep apnea or mouth-breathing.
Children whose SDB peaked later, around 5 to 6 years old, fared better but still had a 60 to 80 percent increased risk of becoming obese. Overall, one-fourth of children in this population-based cohort had an increased statistical risk of obesity that arose from SDB symptoms experienced earlier in life. Obesity was defined as BMI greater than the 95th percentile for age and gender, according to the International Obesity Task Force.
With respect to sleep duration, children with the shortest sleep time at approximately 5 and 6 years of age had a 60 to 100 percent increased risk of being obese at 15 years. Children with short sleep duration at other ages saw no significant increase in risk. (In this study, children with short sleep duration were those who, in any given age group, slept less than 90 percent of their peers. For those aged 5 and 6 years old, this was 10.5 hours a night or less.)
The study was published online in The Journal of Pediatrics.