Researchers from Seattle Children's Research Institute collected data on over 700 adolescents about how long they slept on weeknights and weekends, and how frequently they experienced sleep problems.
On three separate occasions, researchers also asked the youths about the foods and beverages they had consumed the prior day to determine how many calories they consumed.
To measure activity, participants wore accelerometers on their belts for seven days. Unlike pedometers, which count the number steps walked, these highly specialized devices measure movement on three different planes. In addition, the wearer cannot see any data on how active they are.
Researchers also measured participants' weight, body mass index (BMI) and percentage of body fat.
Not surprisingly, results showed that shorter sleep duration was related to higher BMI, and excess body fat, especially for boys. The reverse was also true; more sleep was linked to a lower body fat percentage and BMI for boys.
In girls, only less sleep on weekends was related to higher BMI.
While further studies are needed on the subject, researchers suspect lack of sleep can impact weight in a number of ways. Less sleep means kids are more tired, and less likely to be active, but it also means it can influence hormones that regulate appetite. And of course, more hours spent awake, means more time to consume extra calories.
Past studies have shown a link between sleep and weight issues, particularly in young children. However, this is one of the first studies to document an association between sleep duration and weight in adolescents, even after controlling for calorie intake, activity level and depressive symptoms.
The findings were presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Vancouver earlier this week.
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