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Young children who sleep less tend to weigh more, study shows

According to the National Sleep Foundation, newborns and babies from 4 to 11 months old should sleep 12 to 17 hours a day to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Toddlers and preschoolers should get anywhere from 10 to 14 hours a day. Needless to say, sleep can be important for the development of young children.

A recent study of 1,050 children by Dr. Elsie Taveras, the chief of general pediatrics at Massachusetts General Hospital for Children, found that young children are getting significantly less sleep than previous generations at their age and many children who were not sleeping enough were reported to be overweight and some had a higher risk for obesity.

The Huffington Post reports that much of this loss of sleep comes from more relaxed bedtimes, where children are not going to bed until 10 or 11 p.m. and then waking up early to go to child care or school. Taveras proposed that some of this weight gain could be attributed to lowered metabolisms. She stated that in many studies, metabolism and quality of sleep in children are connected.

Longer screen time and lack of mobility may also contribute to weight control issues. Many children are exposed to hundreds or more advertisements for unhealthy snacks and fast food. This media can lead children to desire and consume these items more frequently, instead of natural food options that are better for their growing bodies.

To promote better sleep habits for young children, Taveras recommends strict bedtime schedules and routines and limited access to electronics prior to bedtime.

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