Kids who don't get enough sleep are more likely to be obese later on, researchers report. And that might even boost their odds for cancer decades later.
The study of 120 U.S. children, average age 8, linked poor sleep quality to higher body mass index, or BMI, an estimate of body fat based on weight and height.
"Childhood obesity very often leads to adult obesity. This puts them at greater risk of developing obesity-related cancers in adulthood," explained study author Bernard Fuemmeler. He is associate director for cancer prevention and control at Virginia Commonwealth University's Massey Cancer Center, in Richmond.
"Today, many children are not getting enough sleep," he said in a news release from the American Association for Cancer Research. "There are a number of distractions, such as screens in the bedroom, that contribute to interrupted, fragmented sleep.
"This, perpetuated over time, can be a risk factor for obesity," he added. "Because of the strong links between obesity and many types of cancer, childhood obesity prevention is cancer prevention, in my view."
The study suggests that while length of sleep is important, assessing sleep quality itself may also be important in preventing childhood obesity, Fuemmeler said.
More research will be needed to understand exactly how poor sleep might affect weight, he said. This study did not prove that poor sleep caused either obesity or cancer.
The findings are to be presented Monday at an American Association for Cancer Research meeting in Austin, Texas. Research presented at meetings is typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.More information
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more on childhood overweight and obesity.
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