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​Do unhealthy sleep patterns increase the risk of obesity?  A study in the June 2014 Pediatrics, “Chronic Sleep Curtailment and Adiposity​,” (published online May 19) studied 1,046 children and asked mothers to report on their children’s sleep duration during a 24-hour period. Almost half of the children experienced some level of sleep curtailment.

Curtailed sleep is defined as shortened sleep relative to the average sleep duration.  The authors sought to determine the effects of chronic – or repeated – sleep curtailment and its impact on obesity. They also examined three age periods: infancy, early childhood and mid-childhood, to determine if there was a crucial period for developing an association between sleep and obesity. While they did not find a critical time period, researchers did find that chronic sleep curtailment was associated with high overall obesity rates at age seven. 

The authors conclude that a better understanding of the risks of chronic curtailed sleep in childhood could help support interventions to promote healthy sleep patterns as part of obesity prevention.

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