Sleep-deprived children tend to overconsume unhealthy foods

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Aug 29, 2015 06:30 AM EDT

Children who have not gotten a full night's sleep tend to eat more unhealthy foods compared to their well-rested peers, according to a new research.

In the findings published in the International Journal of Obesity, British researchers found that five-year olds got less than 11 hours of sleep at night tend to have higher food intake due to increased enthusiasm at the sight or reminder of food. According to the findings, these children also had a higher body mass index (BMI) compared to those who slept more than 11 hours at night.

According to lead author and University College London research fellow, Laura McDonald, sleep-deprivation can result in "hedonic" or "reward-driven eating" and applies in both children and adults.

"This is, of course, a concern, given that we live in a modern 'obesogenic' environment" where tasty, high-calorie foods "are widely available and cheap to consume," she told Reuters in an email.

This is also not the first study that found this effect as there have been many research in the past that have shown that sleep deprivation among children can increase the risk of them being obese or overweight.

The study involved more than 1,000 five-year-olds. The researchers surveyed their mothers about their child's sleeping cycles and their responsiveness to food, according to the report by the University Herald.

The researchers found that the average sleep duration among the participants was 11.5 hours. In the scale of 1 to 5, researchers found that kids who had less than 11 hours of sleep were more responsive to food as at 2.53 rating. Children who had average night time sleep were at 2.36 of the food responsiveness scale and those who slept more than 11 hours had 2.35 rating.

Emerson Wickwire of the University of Maryland School of Medicine also told the outlet that the study may have uncovered a probably reason why little sleep can increase the risk of obesity.

"The current study suggests a new potential explanation (hedonic eating) for weight gain among children who sleep less . . . in other words, kids in the study who slept less were more susceptible to unhealthy food cues in the environment," Wickwire said, according to the report by Fox News. He was not involved in the study. "We know that parents have a huge influence on the sleep patterns of five-year-olds. So really, it's incumbent on parents to make sure their kids are getting enough sleep.

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