A new study led by the University
College London has found that irregular sleeping patterns and
skipping breakfast could influence a child's weight gain.

The research found that children who did not have a regular bed time or got too little sleep,
were at risk of gaining excess weight, challenging the view that
fattening foods and sugary drinks are the main reason behind
increasing childhood obesity rates.

Researchers studied over 19,000 families across Britain in order
to ascertain whether or not a lack of sleep could contribute to a
child's weight gain.

Speaking to the Daily Mail, Prof Yvonne Kelly from UCL's
department of epidemiology and public health said: "Disrupted
routines, exemplified by irregular sleeping patterns and skipping
breakfast, could influence weight gain through increased appetite
and the consumption of energy-dense foods."

The study also found that being born to a mother who smoked was a
contributing factor to a child's weight gain. The researchers
concluded that the consumption of sugary drinks or the amount of
television a child watched was not a strong predictor of unhealthy
weight gain.

Our sleep expert, Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, says: "Routine is key to
children waking up refreshed and feeling ready for bed at a suitable time.

"The sooner you begin to reintroduce a sleeping rhythm, after
several weeks of irregularity, the sooner all the family can fall
back into a healthy sleeping pattern."

Nerina also provides some helpful tips for introducing a healthy
sleeping routine. 

 

1. Start to introduce
technology-free time in the evenings

 

Research has shown that by having a
constant stream of light enter our eyes before we go to sleep, we
are actually telling our brains that we want to be awake. An hour
or so before children go to bed, rule out any blue light. This means no TV,
tablets or mobile phones. The bedroom should be a technology-free
zone.

 

2. Gradually reintroduce
earlier bedtimes

 

An ideal bedtime for pre-teens would
be no later than 8.30pm, so gradually shift bedtime earlier over
the course of a few days to allow children to adjust.

 

3. A calming pre-sleep
routine

 

The few hours before bed can be just as important as actual bedtime.
Relaxing baths with lavender, a milky drink or reading are great
ways to help children wind down and feel ready for bed.

 

4. Have a
chat

 

Heading back to school - or starting
a new one - can be worrying for some children, and leave them
feeling anxious. Talk to your child about any concerns they may
have before bedtime, and encourage simple yoga or meditation by
repeating a calming word or by helping them with their breathing
techniques, including breathing deeply from the stomach.

 

5. Create a sleep-friendly
bedroom

 

Bedrooms need to be sleep-friendly
and this means a cool environment. Freshly laundered bedding,
possibly lavender fragranced, can make the room feel very calming
and relaxing. Again, technology-free bedrooms are a
must!