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Little Sleep Affects Kids’ Health: June 30, 2014

Mother of five Dislandys Acosta keeps order in her house by laying down the law. Including ones that govern bedtime.

“It’s time to wind down and get ready for bed. And this is already bath taken, stories read and everything is already done. Then by 9:00 it’s light out,” says Acosta.

Developing proper sleep habits does more than create a happy home - doctors now believe too little sleep affects kids health and weight.

“It’s so interesting about sleep and weight. There’s certainly been a statistical correlation. That overweight children are more likely to have less than what would be the optimal sleep time for their age,” says Dr. Nancy Witham, who is a pediatrician for Lee Memorial Health System.

Most at risk are little kids between 1 and 3 years old, they should get between 12 and 14 hours of shuteye. Studies find that those who frequently deprived are more likely to be obese by the age of 7.

“So as the parent, if you think you’re putting your child to bed for what should be a reasonable amount of time but that child is sleepier than what you would expect, that’s really something you should talk to your doctor about,” says Dr. Witham.

In school-aged children sleep apnea, often linked to obesity, can be a factor making it difficult for kids to rest. TV and other distractions are frequently to blame. The lack of Zs also impacts daytime behavior.

“There’s been a correlation between behavior and poor night’s sleep. We certainly do know that, that a long night’s sleep does help cognitive function and behavior,” says Dr. Witham.

Dislandys sees what one slip in slumber does to her kids.

“They just like drag around the house,” says Acosta.

Keeping kids on schedule is the surest way to regulate sleep or spot a sleep disorder.