Lifestyle choice dictates sleep quality from the very initial stages of a person’s life. Studies show that an overweight child is highly likely to remain an obese adult. Tests show that in this case, the damage to the body is already evident. Furthermore, by the time the child is on the brink of adulthood, lifestyle choices are already predetermined and far more difficult to change. Modern lifestyle choices lead to sleeplessness in children due to dietary and lifestyle choice-induced damage on the body systems that govern sleep processes.
Furthermore, the pathological results of the gradual disappearance of peaceful bedtime routines are evident. Also, there is now the problem of exposure to the effects of modern technology on children at an increasingly younger age. An unrealistic escalation in homework intensity and volume results in dependence on technology. The relationship becomes just another sleep-damaging addiction. Research reveals that this issue with technology becomes a factor from as young as age ten. As a result, the ‘couch potato syndrome’ is now familiar from a very young age. In these modern times, the considerable decrease in active play is sadly the norm. The accumulative effects of all the above presents as childhood obesity continuing into adulthood.
STUDIES SHOW THAT OBESITY IN CHILDREN CONTINUES INTO ADULTHOOD
The MRC Epidemiology Unit or The Institute of Metabolic Science in the UK dedicate time to research on childhood obesity. They state that it has significant consequences for weight issues in adulthood. The investigations give special attention to early-onset obesity in pre-school children being a precursor to later childhood and adult obesity.
Childhood obesity in the US has almost tripled since 1980. From this study, it is evident that it may be increasing at a faster rate than adult obesity. Since an overweight child becomes an obese adult, they expect enormous implications for the future health of populations globally. The most recent data in the US, Western Europe, Australia and Japan, suggests that levels of childhood obesity may have reached a plateau in the last decade. However, the prevalence of both childhood and adult obesity remains at an excessively high level.
THE IMPACT OF AN UNHEALTHY LIFESTYLE ON CHILDHOOD SLEEP QUALITY
In the not too recent past, people thought that being overweight as a child was cute and adorable. However, nothing is appealing about the alarming physical damage to the body, the consequent lack of sleep and disastrous emotional issues. In addition to carrying the excess weight into adulthood, there exists an even more grim reality. Obesity in children is associated with a higher chance of premature death and disability in adulthood.
The University of Warwick presented a study on children who regularly sleep less than the recommended number of hours for their age group. They found that those children are more likely to become obese later in life.
The research published in the journal ‘Sleep’, took into account the accumulated data from forty-two studies globally. The enormous amount of information contained results from studies which included a total of more than seventy-five thousand children between the ages of zero and eighteen. The study divided the children into two groups depending on their sleep duration. The youngsters followed the guidelines of the newest publication of The National Sleep. The researchers observed the children over a period of at least three years.
The findings show irrevocably that lack of sleep in childhood leads to obesity. Irrespective of age group, ‘short sleepers’ are far more than at risk of becoming obese. Generally, children short on sleep are fifty-eight percent more likely to gain weight or become obese. Co-author Michelle Miller states that this research confirms the theory that chronic lack of sleep is a significant risk factor for adulthood obesity.
Roberto Olivarda, PhD states that a strong collection of research confirms that sleep deprivation is a significant factor in promoting obesity.
The study at Warwick found that age, cultural and environmental indicators affect insomnia in children. According to the research three are numerous reasons why sleep shortage leads to obesity. Sustained lack of sleep has a significant impact on metabolism and endocrine function. Conversely, the results also reveal that more extended rest reflects a decrease in age-related weight gain!
SLEEPLESSNESS AND HORMONAL DISRUPTION
The Warwick study supports the findings of other work done in this area. A link exists between sleep shortage and resultant weight gain and obesity in children. The situation presents a problem for the child growing into adulthood. A drastic lifestyle change is essential. This lifestyle change will lead to weight loss. If lifestyle changes are not made the weight stubbornly remains and the damage becomes irreversible.
The study cites the reasons as being the hormonal chaos which leads to appetite imbalances. The condition affects both cravings and satiety. Lowered leptin and increased ghrelin levels lead to an increase in appetite. Several central nervous system processes also influencing appetite, suffer disruption. Other disruptions occur in general metabolism, insulin and glucose metabolism, cortisol, growth hormone and thyroid-stimulating hormone production.
An increase in the overall predisposition to inflammation as a result of shortened sleeping patterns plays a part in the development of obesity — moodiness, attention span, impulse control, motivation and judgement influence dietary choices. Lack of sleep negatively impacts them all. Sadly, with chronic lack of sleep, the damaging effects may not be reversible.
The ‘hedonic stimulus’, underlies the drive to consume food. Loss of sleep enhances this impulse. Lack of sleep continued into adulthood decreases the ability of the body to lose fat.
In conclusion, it is up to parents to set an example of a healthy lifestyle and good sleep habits. Without these in place children cannot make the right choices. A pantry containing nutritionally empty foods encourages terrible eating habits and leads to hyper-awakened states. Parents are the authorities in the home, and they must set boundaries. Rules regarding technology and bedtimes are imperative if children are to live healthy lives. Removing the non-foods from home and providing fresh, wholesome food is a simple process. The adjustment may take time, but sleep patterns will soon begin to improve. Also, simple, healthy foods are far more economical than many people believe.
Bedtime routine is paramount to healthy sleeping patterns in both children and adults. A parent who takes an hour before their child’s bedtime to wind down with the child is both setting a good example as well as supporting the development of a lifelong habit. The added physical and mental benefits to the adult are a welcome bonus.
Set boundaries as regard technology and stick to them. Even in homework-over loaded teens. Deciding and acting upon what matters in life is of paramount importance. It is this direction that will benefit the child into adulthood more than getting all A’s. Replace excess use of technology with family bonding time, outdoor activities and healthy family relationships.
Moderate exercise during the day increases the likelihood of better sleep. Share simple outdoor activities with children from infancy. Walking around the block with one’s toddler on a weekday evening or a Sunday morning is quality time invested returning lifelong dividends for you both. Ball games are enjoyed at any age, enriching the lives of those involved. Playing in the garden or the park and simple family picnics are outdoor activities accessible to many. Playing card games or board games also provides fun as well as the human connection that modern children have been lacking. A child that is emotionally more secure will sleep more easily. A child who gets sufficient exercise, natural sunlight and proper nutrition are already well on the way to becoming a fit, active and well-adjusted adult.
Parents also have to address school-related problems personally. The demands on children of the education system have escalated out of control. Genuine childhoods will remain a thing of the past unless adults take action. Education is essential, as is work, but only as much as a balanced lifestyle. Without quality of life, what is the point? If the parent does not address the imbalanced load of schoolwork, who will? Homeschooling is an option for those who can afford either not to work or to get a trusted tutor. A diligent teen can self-school. Who says that schooling has to be complete by age 16/17? A happy teen, leading a wholesome, balanced and fulfilled life is worth far more than top marks for A-levels at 16! The deepest desire of every parent is to see their child living a life of joyful purpose. A good life begins now, while the child is still at home.
Finally, it is imperative that the parent sets the example and lives a more balanced life themselves. The child’s current and future, physical and mental well-being depends on it!
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