A study finds that there is a connection between lack of sleep, learning difficulties, and childhood obesity. The existence of one of these three factors increases the risk that a child will also experience the other two factors. It could mean that reducing one factor can decrease the risk of developing the other two.
A study was done at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. It included 351 elementary school kids. The average age of the children in this study was eight years old.
There were some variables that were the same with all of the children in the study. None of the kids had been diagnosed with a learning disability that required a specialized learning designation at that child’s school. None of the kids were taking medication for ADHD.
All of the children were given a standardized intelligence test. The test had an emphasis on things that were associated with learning including: memory, working memory, planning, problem solving, and attention. Every child spent a night in a sleep lab, so they could be evaluated for SDB.
SDB stands for “sleep disordered breathing”. It refers to a group of disorders that disrupts the respiratory pattern, or quantity of ventilation, while a person is asleep. When this happens, the person will partially wake up, and then fall back asleep, and then start the pattern over again. The result is that the person is waking up in the morning feeling unrested.
The researchers then used structural equation modeling in order to examine the interaction between a child’s body weight, sleep quality, and learning. The results showed that each of the three factors had an influence on the other two.
Poor quality of sleep increased a child’s risk of becoming obese. It also caused kids to have a lower score on the learning ability tests. Obesity increased the risk of a child having a breathing related sleep problem. It also increased the risk that a child would have a lower score on the learning ability tests. Kids that had a lower score on the learning ability tests had a higher risk of being obese, and of developing sleep problems.
All of the children in the study were “developmentally normal”. Therefore, this study doesn’t directly represent the impact of obesity or poor sleep on kids who have been diagnosed with a learning disability. On the other hand, it doesn’t mean that kids who have learning disabilities are immune from the affects of obesity or poor sleep on their learning process.
Parents need to set a bedtime schedule. Make sure your child is getting a healthy amount of sleep. Wake your child up at the same time every day, (including the weekends), and keep the same bedtime, (even while on vacation), for best results. Obesity can be prevented, (in many cases), by making sure your child is eating healthy food (in proper amounts), and by ensuring your child is getting plenty of exercise.
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