Children’s Sleep Project

Because we all need a good night’s rest.

Harvard Study Links Sleeplessness to Obesity

May 07, 2008 By: Kathy Category: Research

It’s not that I’m against research, but last month’s study out of Harvard has me a bit peeved.

According to the press release, “Infants and toddlers who sleep less than 12 hours a day and who watch two or more hours of television per day are twice as likely to become overweight by age 3 than children who sleep longer.”

I don’t have scientific evidence of this, but all the parents I know whose infant or toddler sleeps less than 12 hours a day are a bit frazzled and fatigued. Plopping the child in front of the TV tends to be a coping mechanism, not a lazy, shiftless, dunno-what-else-to-do kind of move.

Not that Harvard characterized it that way, and maybe I’m just defensive, but the implication on parental self-esteem is just a little wearying. Believe me, I’d love for my child to sleep more than 12 hours a day. Believe me, if I had the energy myself, he wouldn’t be watching TV while I scrape myself together every morning. Believe me, we’d all love a little more sleep and a little less body fat, for our children and ourselves.

I don’t have scientific data to back this claim, either, but in my experience, parents with children who don’t sleep much tend to be pouring as much of themselves as they possibly can into the act of parenting. The guilt/anxiety combo that can come from reports like this one can just about send us over the edge.

I don’t want my kid to be overweight. I’d rather he didn’t watch TV at all, truth be told. But at this point, I’d gladly trade a few pounds and a Thomas the Tank Engine for an extra hour of sleep each night.