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Children Hitting the Snooze Button May Be At a Higher Risk For Chronic Disease

Doctor protecting a heartCan’t get your child out of bed early in the morning? Think they are just lazy and don’t want to go to school and do their chores? Do you struggle to get them motivated to start the day?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, chances are you have an exhausted child on your hands, a problem that’s more serious than you might think. Lack of sleep in teens and children has been shown to affect more than just their ability to get out from under their warm covers.

For starters, the American Heart Association has recently released a report detailing how sleep duration can be a risk factor for multiple cardiometabolic and cardiovascular diseases. In the study, which was published in September inCirculation, they found that sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea and insomnia put both adults and children at risk for coronary heart disease, heart failure, hypertension, and stroke.

Harvard Medical School generally defines an adequate night of sleep for the majority of adults as being between 7.5 to 8.5 hours a night. Children are recommended to get even more.

In addition, high blood pressure — also known as hypertension — has been seen in about four percent of children aged eight to 17 years. Hypertension in children can also negatively impact their cognitive skills once they grow older.

A new study in the Journal of Pediatrics found that hypertension in children can interfere with an adult’s cognitive functioning. Dr. Marc B. Lande, a researcher at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York and co-author of the study, assessed the cognitive test results of 150 children aged 10-18 years. Of these children, 75 had newly diagnosed hypertension, while 75 had normal blood pressure.

According to Medical News Today, children in the study with high blood pressure performed worse on tests of visual skills, visual and verbal memory, and processing speed.

Children who sleep less are also more at risk of becoming obese in their teenage years. In a study by Ohio State University, researchers found that children with earlier bedtimes were more likely to have a lower BMI than those with later bedtimes throughout childhood.

Researchers followed 977 children aged between 4.5 to 15 years and asked their parents to list what time the child typically went to sleep on weekdays. The bedtimes ranged between 6:45 p.m. to 1:30 a.m., with the most common bedtime being between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m..

The study found that a whopping 23% of children who were put to bed after 9 p.m. were found to be obese later in life. While the researchers were unsure of how exactly a child’s bedtime affects their weight, there have been studies done in the past that linked a lack of sleep to an increase of hormones that, in turn, increase a child’s appetite and metabolism.

Only 10% of children who were put to bed by 8 p.m. were found to be obese later in life.

Even though the study’s authors agree that as life becomes more hectic, developing a consisten bedtime routine for children is a struggle. Nevertheless, the importance of a regular routine is vital for their children’s health.

The researchers explain to the Times Record,”For young children, parents create the routines that allow children to obtain sufficient sleep to meet their physiologic needs. However, in establishing young children’s bedtimes, like other household routines, parents must often make compromises as they face competing time demands.”

Lack of sleep also hinders a child’s judgment skills throughout the day. Swimming, for example, is a huge risk to children and teens if they are suffering from fatigue. About one in five people who die from drowning annually are children 14 and younger, as swimming tired leads to a larger lapse in judgment and reaction time than swimming after getting enough rest.

Going to bed later than their parents also causes teens to suffer from poor oral health. These night owls are less likely to brush their teeth before bed without their parents reminding them, so they suffer from more cavities and tooth decay than the generations that came before.

These results are shocking. According to a study published in the International Journal of Dental Hygiene, children who stay up later are four times as likely to develop cavities and require fillings than those who go to bed earlier.

Not only that, but tired adolescents are more likely to sleep in and skip breakfast, leading to increased snacking on sugary foods throughout the day.

Dr. Nigel Carter, the chief executive of the Oral Health Foundation, warns parents of the dangers of careless dental health habits. He tells theDaily Mail, “If you tend to fall asleep before your children, evidence suggests there is a real danger that they are not brushing their teeth regularly, or properly.”

Not only can poor dental hygiene lead to multiple health risks, it can interfere with their ability to get a job down the line, too. Considering the fact that 75% of Americans feel that an unattractive smile could potentially harm their chance for career success, it is vital that proper dental hygiene starts at a young age.

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