The Edgar Diabetes and Obesity Research Centre (EDOR) carries out a range of projects aimed at understanding and reducing obesity in our communities. On World Obesity Day 2020 we are highlighting a particularly novel approach to obesity prevention in children: changing how we sleep.
Following the Prevention of Overweight in Infancy (POI) study, which involved 802 New Zealand children, sleep has emerged as a key factor associated with a lower risk of obesity in children. At five years of age, children who had received a sleep intervention had approximately half the odds of obesity than children who had not received the sleep intervention.
The DREAM (Diet, REst, Activity and Monitoring) team aims to understand how not getting enough sleep increases your risk of weight gain. The research to date suggests that it is more to do with what children eat, rather than how active they are, but we need clinical trials to accurately assess this.
Does lack of sleep make kids eat more?
The DREAM study is a randomised cross-over trial in children aged 8-12 years old, where the children are asked to restrict their sleep by one hour each night for a week and also extend their sleep by one hour each night for another week. The team will compare (for each child) the dietary behaviours, physical activity and screen time between the week of sleep restriction (where they get less sleep) and sleep extension (where they get more sleep). Children are also using wearable cameras to capture objective measurements of these lifestyle behaviours.
So far the team has had a great response from the families involved in the study. The children appear to follow the protocol well and have managed to restrict as well as extend their sleep. Interestingly, children admitted to the study all met the current sleep guidelines for their age, but were still able to sleep more when given the opportunity, suggesting that they may not have been receiving enough sleep for their needs.
The results from this research will help us to understand how sleep is impacting children's health and may provide the evidence needed to support sleep as a potential effective intervention strategy for reducing childhood obesity.