Sleep should be one of the most important family values, say researchers who found that more parental sleep is related to more child sleep, which is linked to decreased child obesity.
“Parents should make being well rested a family value and a priority,” said Barbara H Fiese, director of the University of Illinois’s Family Resiliency Center and Pampered Chef Endowed Chair.
“Sleep routines in a family affect all the members of the household, not just children; we know that parents won’t get a good night’s sleep unless and until their preschool children are sleeping,” Fiese said.
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The new study by Fiese and colleagues showed that sleep is a protective factor in lowering the incidence of obesity in parents and being overweight in preschool children.
In the study, socioeconomic characteristics were assessed in relation to protective routines and prevalence of being obese or overweight for 337 preschool children and their parents.
The routines assessed in parents included adequate sleep (over seven hours) and family mealtime routine.
The four protective routines assessed in children were adequate sleep (10 or more hours per night), family mealtime routine, limiting screen-viewing time to less than two hours a day, and not having a bedroom TV.
The only significant individual protective factor against obesity or overweight in children was getting adequate sleep.
Children who did not get enough sleep had a greater risk for being overweight than children who engaged in at least three of the protective routines regularly, even after controlling for parents’ BMI and socio-demographic characteristics, Fiese said.
But the researchers also learned that the number of hours a parent sleeps is related to how much sleep children are getting, so that a parent’s sleep has an effect on the likelihood that their children will be overweight or obese.
“We viewed how long parents slept and how long children slept as part of a household routine and found that they really did go together,” Fiese said.
The study was co-authored by Blake L Jones of Purdue University and published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.