Less sleep, more calories for kids

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Studies showed that children who don’t sleep enough are more likely to become obese later in life. Now a direct link was found between a lack of sleep and increased calorie consumption in toddlers.

A study that was published online in International Journal of Obesity in March 2014 found that toddlers who are under the age of 2 and don’t sleep for at least 10 hours at night consume 10 percent more calories than do children who get at least 10 hours of sleep. Abi Fisher, who is the study’s lead author, says this is partly because of parents’ reliance on giving their children snacks when the child has trouble sleeping.

Dr. George Datto, who is a pediatrician at Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, says food can help toddlers to fall asleep, but the food should be eaten at least 1 hour before bedtime, and it should be a nutritious snack, such as cheese, fruit or yogurt. Dr. Judith Owens of American Academy of Sleep Medicine says setting regular bedtimes and routines, such as reading a story, can help children to sleep better without snacks.