Not a day goes by where I don’t counsel my patients on the vital importance of a good night’s sleep. And as I’m sure you’ve noticed, it also gets plenty of lip service here in the Reality Health Check and in my monthly Logical Health Alternatives newsletter too. (In fact, I even developed an entire, comprehensive protocol to help you get the quality sleep you need for optimal health. You can learn more about it by clicking here.)
That’s because it’s one of the simplest things you can do to safeguard your metabolism and keep your blood sugar in check. And in the midst of a booming diabesity epidemic, the vital difference quality sleep delivers could be life-saving.
Even for children.
Obviously, when it comes to preventing childhood obesity — and all the adult diseases that come with it — some recommendations are worth more than others. And while I don’t agree with most of the garbage that passes for kids’ nutrition advice, sleep guidelines are a whole different story.
In fact, according to a recent study from researchers at University of St. George’s London, even a single lost hour of nightly sleep could increase the risk of chronic disease.
These researchers looked at body measurements, blood work, and questionnaire answers from more than 4,500 children of various ethnic backgrounds between nine and ten years old. And not surprisingly, their findings fell right in line with what we know about sleep’s critical role in metabolic health.
Specifically, the kids who got less than 10.5 hours of sleep weighed more and had higher levels of body fat. But even more disturbingly, shorter sleep duration was also linked to higher levels of insulin, insulin resistance, and blood sugar.
The study didn’t find a correlation between shortened sleep duration and heart risk factors, like high blood pressure. But with significant upticks in body fat and blood sugar, it’s really only a matter of time before these changes take hold, too.
But now, for the bright side — based on these results, the study authors conclude that increasing weekday sleep duration by just a half an hour could help to lower BMI and insulin resistance in kids.
And ultimately, these are changes that could serve them throughout their entire adult lives — possibly sparing them a devastating diabetes diagnosis down the road.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends school-age kids get nine to 11 hours of sleep nightly.
Unfortunately, most kids aren’t getting nearly this much — with studies pointing to caffeine consumption and TVs in bedrooms as the top sleep-stealing culprits.
And you can probably guess my opinions on that.
I don’t know any grade-school children who drink coffee, so there’s really only one beverage that caffeine could be coming from. (And kids shouldn’t even be drinking fruit juice, much less soda (or sweet tea). Sugar kills.
As for TVs in the bedroom, well, I’ll take it one step further and advise prohibiting any screen time at all in the hour before bedtime. And that includes computers or tablets.
Your child’s pineal gland relies on darkness to secrete the sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin. So with kids, as with adults, lights out should mean all lights out — bright-light-emitting electronics, especially.