Good sleep is considered to be one of the keys to maintaining a healthy weight. Multiple studies prove that people who get too little sleep have a higher risk of weight gain and obesity. This is a particularly serious issue for children’s health because they are more vulnerable than adults, and a shorter sleep duration affects a child’s body in a number of ways. Currently, lack of sleep represents one of the most common health problems in adolescents and has received considerable attention in the scientific literature over the past decade.
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Sleep is an important contributor to physical and mental health. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that school-aged children should sleep between 9 and 11 hours per night, and adolescents aged 14-17 need to target between 8 and 10 hours of sleep per night (Duraccio et al., 2019). However, multiple studies claim that most children and adolescents get insufficient sleep. According to Duraccio et al. (2019), over two-thirds of adolescents are sleep deprived, which is primarily connected with sleep timing, social, and academic factors. Short or disrupted sleep is associated with negative outcomes in several areas of children’s health and functioning, including obesity, depression, school performance, and quality of life (Chaput & Dutil, 2016). It also causes disturbances in cognitive and psychomotor functions, including mood, thinking, memory, concentration, learning, and reaction (Chaput & Dutil, 2016). The recent literature on the subject studies the mechanisms and impact of sleep deprivation and poor quality of sleep on the risk of developing obesity and weight gain in children and adolescents.
The article by Chaput and Dutil (2016) identifies lack of sleep as an important contributor to obesity in adolescents. According to the research, sleep, sedentary behavior, physical activity, and diet all interact and influence each other to impact health (Chaput & Dutil, 2016). The article explores several theories which explain the mechanisms by which a lack of sleep may lead to weight gain. The hormonal explanation suggests that insufficient sleep is a stressor to metabolism and induces various adverse effects on body systems and hormone production (Chaput & Dutil, 2016). Another theory claims that a lack of sleep leads to increased food intake and reduced energy expenditure, which results in weight gain (Chaput & Dutil, 2016). When treating obesity in adolescents, lack of sufficient sleep may compromise the efficacy of weight-loss interventions, and incorporating sleep components in treatment programs is essential for improving their outcomes.
The research by Duraccio et al. (2019) studies the relations between poor sleep and increased obesity risks in adolescents. It identifies the following factors that contribute to the increase in food intake: using food as a reward, emotional reactivity, decreased inhibitory control, metabolic disturbances, poor diet quality, and disrupted meal timings (Duraccio et al., 2019). Poor sleep negatively affects a person’s activity level and increases screen time, which limits overall energy expenditure. The imbalance of energy intake and expenditure intensifies the overall risk of weight gain (Duraccio et al., 2019). Sleep deprivation also appears to increase neural activation in brain regions associated with food reward and increase a person’s subjective sensation of hunger and motivation to seek food (Duraccio et al., 2019). The increase in food intake is also connected with emotional eating (eating in response to negative emotions), which is also triggered by a lack of sleep (Duraccio et al., 2019). Overall, it can be concluded that the number of factors connect increased food intake and sleep deprivation and lead to weight gain and obesity.
The article by Gohil and Hannon (2018) studies the relationships between obesity, sleep, and cardiometabolic risk factors. Particularly, it claims that obese children are significantly more likely to have persistent obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) than normal-weight youth (Gohil & Hannon, 2018). The results of the study suggest that poor and insufficient sleep is associated “with a greater BMI and markers of cardiometabolic risk, including insulin resistance and higher blood pressure in youth” (Gohil & Hannon, 2018, p. 366). The article also provides some suggestions for obesity treatment, which include earlier bedtimes, later wake times, and other measures aimed to improve sleep quality (Gohil & Hannon, 2018). Overall, the article proves that sleep issues are a matter of serious concern, especially for obese adolescents, while being simultaneously one of the causes of the problem and the impediment to treatment.
It can be concluded that the academic literature on sleep deprivation argues that it has a number of adverse health effects on children and adolescents, with obesity being one of them. The mechanism connecting the lack of sleep to weight gain is not yet explicitly explained. It is suggested that short sleep duration, poor sleep quality, and late bedtimes are associated with increased food intake, reduced energy expenditure, poor diet habits, and using food as a reward, which leads to weight gain. In obese adolescents who suffer from sleep deprivation, it is identified as one of the main impediments to weight-intervention programs. It means that it is essential to incorporate sleep components into obesity treatment programs to achieve positive outcomes.
Chaput, J.-P., & Dutil, C. (2016). Lack of sleep as a contributor to obesity in adolescents: Impacts on eating and activity behaviors. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 13(103). Web.
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Duraccio, K. M., Krietsch, K. N., Chardon, M. L., Van Dyk, T. R., & Beebe, D. W. (2019). Poor sleep and adolescent obesity risk: A narrative review of potential mechanisms. Adolescent Health, Medicine and Therapeutics, 10, 117-130. Web.
Gohil, A., & Hannon, T. S. (2018). Poor sleep and obesity: Concurrent epidemics in adolescent youth. Frontiers in Endocrinology, 9(364). Web.