A research abstract presented on Tuesday at SLEEP 2008, the 22nd Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies (APSS), finds an increased prevalence of sleep problems among school-aged children who are obese and an association between increased weight and lower quality of life.

The study, authored by Kelly Ann Davis, of St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia, focused on 100 children between eight and 12 years of age and their caregivers, who completed questionnaires at the child's well-visit.

According to the results, children who were obese had poorer scores for sleep onset delay, sleep-disordered breathing, sleep duration and daytime sleepiness, compared to children who were overweight or healthy weight. Weight category was a significant predictor of parent-reported physical, psychosocial, and total quality of life scores, as well as child-reported physical functioning scores. Weight category and sleep problem category were significant predictors of child-reported psychosocial and total quality of life scores.

"In this study, sleep and weight each contributed unique variance for quality of life scores, thus indicating the need to evaluate daytime functioning in children with both obesity and sleep problems," said Davis.

While an increasing number of adults are considered obese, the number of obese children is also on the rise. Obesity can increase children's risk for developing obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a sleep-related breathing disorder that causes your body to stop breathing during sleep. OSA, which can disturb your sleep numerous times on any given night, can result in daytime sleepiness, as well as an increased risk of stroke, diabetes and heart disease. OSA is a serious sleep disorder that can be harmful, or even fatal, if left untreated.

It is recommended that school-aged children get between 10-11 hours of nightly sleep and children in pre-school between 11-13 hours.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) offers some tips to help your child sleep better:


 


·         Follow a consistent bedtime routine. Set aside 10-30 minutes to get your child ready to go to sleep each night.


·         Establish a relaxing setting at bedtime.


·         Interact with your child at bedtime. Don't let the TV, computer or video games take your place.


·         Keep your children from TV programs, movies and video games that are not right for their age.


·         Do not let your child fall asleep while being held, rocked, fed a bottle or while nursing.


·         At bedtime, do not allow your child to have foods or drinks that contain caffeine. This includes chocolate and sodas. Try not to give him or her any medicine that has a stimulant at bedtime. This includes cough medicines and decongestants.


 


It is important to make sure that your child gets enough sleep and sleeps well. The value of sleep can be measured by your child's smiling face, happy nature and natural energy. A tired child may have development or behavior problems. A child's sleep problems can also cause unnecessary stress for you and the other members of your family.

Parents who suspect that their child might be suffering from a sleep disorder are encouraged to consult with their child's pediatrician or a sleep specialist.

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