Ensuring kids (and adults) get enough sleep can help keep weight off and memories strong. Image: Flickr / tachyondecay / CC-BY

In two separate studies published this week, lack of sleep has been connected to negative health outcomes. Children who do not have regular sleep have a higher risk of obesity. Lack of sleep can also significantly impair memory function.

Connection between sleep and obesity

Researchers studied the sleep habits of 300 children, ages 4 to 10 years old. The researchers found that, on average, children who got irregular sleep were more likely to be obese. This was not necessarily children who¬† got too little sleep, but children that slept more or less on various days of the week. Dr. David Gozal, who was a lead researcher on the study, explained the results by saying “We think that the direction of the arrow is you sleep less, you eat more, you exercise less because you’re tired, and therefore you gain more weight.”

The connection between sleep and memory

In the journal Nature Neuroscience today, a second sleep study was published. German scientists found that study subjects who took a nap immediately after studying retained 25 percent more than subjects who had not taken a nap. The theory is that memories, which are first stored in the short-term hippocampus region of the brain, “download” during sleep and are stored in the long-term portions of the brain. In short, sleep helps cement memories.

The challenge of getting enough sleep

For many people young and old, getting enough sleep is difficult. For school-aged children and adolescents, nine hours or more per night is usually recommended. For adults, anywhere between 8 and 10 hours is usually considered “enough.” In general, getting enough sleep should mean sleeping until you naturally wake up. The good news is, however, that “catching up” on sleep appears to be helpful. Catching up on sleep over the weekend can help reduce risk of obesity between 280 percent and 400 percent.


AFP: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5ir9Aq3KpWK1wbwDG1A9sqQLxq0nQ?docId=CNG.3d70bb040bdfdd29691ee978be81fc1a.2e1
Fox News: http://www.foxnews.com/health/2011/01/24/study-sleep-extra-pounds-kids/

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