Does the daycare, work, and school grind make you—and your child—lose a little sleep during the week? Using weekends and holidays as a chance to catch up on lost sleep not only helps recharge the batteries, but may be an important step in preventing childhood obesity, according to research published in the February 2011 issue of Pediatrics.
In the study, researchers looked at sleep patterns and body mass index (BMI) in a group of over 300 children (children ranged in age from 4 to 10). Regardless of weight, children averaged eight hours of sleep per night on a "school night," significantly lower than current recommendations. On the weekends when normal weight children were more likely to sleep longer, obese children were less likely to experience this "catch-up" sleep on weekends. What's the connection? Researchers speculate that getting enough sleep is an important part of how the body regulates metabolism—including how the body uses calories in food.
No matter how young a child is, sleep and adequate rest play an important role in overall health. According to the National Sleep Foundation, infants may sleep up to 18 hours or more in a 24-hour period, and toddlers and preschoolers need about 12 to 14 hours of sleep.
Is your family's hectic schedule getting in the way of your child getting enough sleep? As experts involved with this study believe, using weekends as a way to catch up still counts towards total time in dreamland.