Here's yet another reason to ensure your toddler or preschooler gets a good amount of sleep: A new study shows that inadequate nighttime sleep can increase a young child's risk of becoming overweight or obese later in childhood. In a NPR story on the study this morning, Stanford sleep expert Emmanuel Mignot, MD, PhD, weighed in on the issue:
Mignot says that studies done in his sleep lab found that if you sleep less, certain hormones like leptin and ghrelin change in a way that stimulates appetite. Leptin, which is a starvation signal, decreases and gives you the feeling that you should eat more. At the same time, levels of ghrelin, which stimulate the appetite, increase.
It's an unfortunate combination adding up to an increased risk of weight gain. Mignot's studies were done in adults, but he says a similar hormonal shift likely takes place in children as well. This hormonal shift also increases cravings for unhealthy foods like those high in salt, sugar and fat.
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