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Sleep deprivation linked to obesity in preschoolers

By Ryan Maass
Sleep deprivation linked to obesity in preschoolers
Study finds sleep-deprived preschoolers tend to consume more calories. Photo by Tyler Olson/Shutterstock

BOULDER, Colo., Oct. 14 (UPI) -- Preschoolers who don't get enough sleep may be inclined to consume more calories, researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder suggest in a new study.

For the study, published in the Journal of Sleep Research, preschoolers who regularly take naps in the afternoon were deprived of approximately three hours of sleep on one day, and were kept awake past their regular bedtime. Investigators observed the sleep deprived children consumed roughly 20 percent more calories than usual.

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"With this study design, children missed a daytime nap and stayed up late, which mimics one way that children lose sleep in the real world," assistant professor Monique LeBourgeois said in a press release. "We found that sleep loss increased the dietary intake of preschoolers on both the day of and the day after restricted sleep."

The preschoolers continued to demonstrate an uptick in calorie consumption during the second day of the study, when the children were allowed to sleep as much as needed. While they returned to baseline levels of sugar and carbohydrate consumption, they still consumed 14 percent more calories and 23 percent more fat. The study's authors say their research provides valuable insight into how sleep loss is tied to obesity.

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"To our knowledge, this is the first published study to experimentally measure the effects of sleep loss on food consumption in preschool children," first author Elsa Mullins said. "Our results are consistent with those from other studies of adults and adolescents, showing increased caloric intake on days that subjects were sleep deprived."

The research team is calling for replication projects involving larger sample sizes, which they say can provide more detailed revelations on dietary intake and its relationship with energy expenditure in children.

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