Obesity is epidemic today. It ruins our health, predisposing us to a withering list of serious ailments (including diabetes, heart attacks, cancer, back and hip degeneration and depression). And it’s increasingly clear that weight problems start early––perhaps even in infancy.

In a study of over a 1000 children, Canadian researchers found that 26% of tots and preschoolers with short sleep (under 10 hours a night) become overweight or obese…later in childhood (versus 15% of kids sleeping 10 hours and 10% sleeping over 11 hours). In other words, they had 2-3 times the risk!

And a similar finding was reported by a joint UCLA and University of Washington study as well as a meta-analysis (review of scientific studies) on child sleep and obesity by doctors at Johns Hopkins.

Moreover, kids who are overtired:

  • Exercise less (because they’re tired).
  • Crave more sugar, fat and empty calories.
  • Eat more impulsively, even when they’re not hungry.
  • Gain weight from exhaustion-induced metabolic imbalances (insulin resistance, reduced leptin, etc.).

And exhaustion and obesity can become a vicious cycle. As kids gain weight, their necks get fatter. That makes them snore and wake more often, which makes them even more tired!

How You Can Prevent Childhood Obesity Early On

But the good news is that you have a great opportunity to save your child from a lifetime of struggling with weight if you act now. Here’s a bunch of things you can do:

  • Eat less food that comes in a box or from a restaurant. (This food is high in fat, sugar and salt.)
  • Eat more fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains.
  • Aim to have your child get at least 10.5 hours of sleep each night! Avoid sweet drinks. (Juice has as much sugar as soda!)
  • Reduce TV time (turn it off during family meals).
  • Get outside. Visit the park for some exercise as often as you can.
Eat dinner as a family at least 5 times a week. (A great book filled with tips for having fun at the dinner table is The Family Dinner, by Laurie David.)

About Dr. Harvey Karp

Dr. Harvey Karp, one of America’s most trusted pediatricians, is the founder of Happiest Baby and the inventor of the groundbreaking SNOO Smart Sleeper. After years of treating patients in Los Angeles, Dr. Karp vaulted to global prominence with the release of the bestselling Happiest Baby on the Block and Happiest Toddler on the Block. His celebrated books and videos have since become standard pediatric practice, translated into more than 20 languages and have helped millions of parents. Dr. Karp’s landmark methods, including the 5 S’s for soothing babies, guide parents to understand and nurture their children and relieve stressful issues, like new-parent exhaustion, infant crying, and toddler tantrums.

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.