What Would Make Parenting Easier?

Lack of sleep in young children has been linked to later obesity. A study published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine examined data on approximately 2,000 children and found infants and toddlers who slept less than 10 hours a night were almost twice as likely to go from normal weight to overweight or overweight to obese in 5 years. Unfortunately, naps don’t compensate for deep sleep; and lack of deep sleep causes a decrease in the production of the hormones leptin and ghrelin and that stimulates appetite. Considering children’s increasing obesity rates, they may not be getting enough time to “sleep off” future weight problems.

Lack of sleep is also bad for teenagers’ diets. A study of 240 teenagers ages 16-19 published in the journal Sleep found teens who average less than 8 hours of sleep on weeknights tended to eat more fatty foods and high-calorie snacks – a pattern leading to weight gain. Researchers hypothesize the reduced production of leptin and ghrelin from lack of sleep is responsible for this too. It seems teenagers would be healthier if they slept the 9 hours recommended by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine while “visions of sugar plumbs danced in their heads”.

Secondhand smoke is bad for children too. Although the federal government set a goal of having only 12% of Americans smoking by 2010, 20% still smoke. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention examined blood samples from more than 1,300 children and reported more than 50% of children ages 3-11 show signs in their blood of secondhand smoke exposure. Such exposure makes children more susceptible to pneumonia, bronchitis, asthma and decreased lung function. The fact that the majority of exposure occurs in the children’s own homes unfortunately gives new meaning to the word “smokehouse”.

However, if there are sisters in the house, that’s good for their siblings’ mental health. According to a study published in the Journal of Family Psychology, sisters help adolescent siblings handle depression. Researchers looked at 10- to 14-year-olds in 395 families and found this positive influence existed regardless of age difference or birth order; and as long as there was affection, it existed in spite of fighting. Researchers think a sister’s presence is more effective in dealing with depression because girls are more willing than boys to discuss emotions. Maybe the day will come when Philadelphia is known as the “City of Sisterly Love”.


Knight Pierce Hirst has written for television, newspapers and greeting cards. Now she is writing a 400-word blog 3 times a week. Knight Watch is a second look at little new items that make life more interesting and take only seconds to read at http://knightwatch.typepad.com


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