Sleep Deprivation Leading to Obesity in Keiki

Inadequate sleep in keiki increases food responsiveness and overeating behaviors.  This may be an important mechanism driving childhood obesity, according to findings published in the International Journal of Obesity.

Sleep deprivation in adults had already been linked to obesity, but no such studies existed for kids.  Now, McDonald and colleagues conducted a study of children who sleep for shorter durations.

His team found a significant association between shorter sleep and higher food responsiveness, even in kids as young as 5 years old.  Specifically, the children displayed increased desire for highly palatable, calorically dense foods such as fats and sweets (and yes, this category would include Hawaii favorites such as spam musubi and malasadas).  In addition, shorter sleep correlated with higher BMIs (Body Mass Index) in children.

The mechanism for this is not completely clear, but prior similar studies on adults have suggested that sleep deprivation can affect brain rewards systems.  And we’ve known for a long time that when you deprive rats of sleep, one of the very first things they do is to increase their food consumption and their preference to eat high-reward food.    These sleepy rats had higher brain levels of prodynorphin and proenkephalin, chemicals that has been found to magnify the pleasures associated with eating high-reward food.

We already know that our keiki need sleep for learning, memory, safety, mood, and for doing well in school.  And they also need adequate shut-eye to keep their weight as at the healthiest range possible in childhood, and life-long.

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