New Study Says Teen ‘Night Owls’ Are At Higher Risk Of Obesity
This explains so much! I've been a long-time night-owl since the 6th grade. I started sleeping between 4 and 6 hours a night in middle school because I got involved with some community theater productions in Ellsworth. The late rehearsals, the commute back to Orono and the fact that I had to keep my grades up meant I had very few hours to sleep. My days were longer than most kids my age. And I often felt that despite my attempt to "make up for lost sleep" on the weekends, I just couldn't seem to shake that feeling of being tired all the time. I also couldn't shake the extra pounds I seemed to put on during this time period, despite what I did with my diet or exercise regiment.
Turns out, based on a recent study from Harvard Medical School, my sleep (or lack there of) could have been behind my fluffy mid-section! The study, performed with MassGeneral Hospital for Children, found "Poor quality and short duration of sleep are known to increase obesity and cardiometabolic risk among children."
To put it plainly, as one of the researches quoted in the article said, "Our research found that ‘night owls,’ teenagers who prefer to go to bed late but have to get up early for school, had higher waist circumference and greater abdominal fat deposition (adiposity) than the ‘morning larks,’ those who prefer to go to bed early and get up early to begin their day." And the data seems to show that girls are at a higher risk of this behavior than boys.
If you think about it, it makes sense. Unfortunately kids these days have so much more to distract them from getting a good night's sleep. With social media, phones and tablets to keep them busy until all hours of the early morning, kids can easily rabbit-hole down a path that leads them to lose track of time and space, and the need for some decent shut-eye!
I mean, for years, doctors have been harping on the importance of getting a good night's sleep. Heck, we even have the term "beauty rest" to entice us. But seeing the results of the research in such startling black-and-white terms, and in kids younger than college students, it's enough to make this mom pause, and really make an active effort in fostering better sleep habits in my kids than I had for myself.
The good news, if we all get behind better sleeping habits, our youngsters may have a better chance at leading healthier lives, as one scientists in the article explains: "Families should encourage consistency in their children’s sleep schedules and their bed and wake times as well as improvements in their sleep hygiene by limiting electronic media and caffeine use in the evening.”
There's even been suggestions made by some that schools should delay start times, and offer more time within the school day to complete homework tasks, to avoid students staying up late to finish assignments.
What do you think? I think we should be encouraged to take naps during the day! (I'd be all for that--like in preschool!) It will never happen, because we'll always find things that need to be done to fill that time--and that's part of the problem. We just haven't made health a priority yet. But it's time we should, don't you think?!
If not for ourselves, for our kids.