Researchers at
the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital have found that kids
who get little sleep may end up getting a bigger waistline. The study,
published in the November issue of Pediatrics,
examined the relationship between sleep duration and the risk of becoming
overweight or obese for children in grades 3 and 6.

The bad news? Those who got
less than 9 hours of sleep each day were at an increased risk of packing on the
pounds, regardless of their gender, race, socioeconomic status or home
environment. The good news, however, was that for every additional hour of sleep the 3rd graders
got each night, they were 40% less likely to be overweight by grade 6!

The researchers theorized that
the connection between sleep and weight may be due to a “behavioral impact”
because children who are better rested have more energy to exercise. Other
potential reasons cited were that sleep-deprived kids may use food to improve
mood or that lack of sleep disrupts the hormones that regulate fat storage,
appetite and glucose/carbohydrate metabolism.

According to the researchers, families who are
struggling to get their kids to bed at a reasonable hour should seek help from
their physicians. The study authors also suggested that revising school start
times might help children increase the amount of sleep they get each night.