“Overweight children tend to sleep less than their thinner peers, spending less time in the ‘dream’ stage of sleep in particular, according to a study published Monday.
The findings, reported in the Archives of General Psychiatry, add to evidence that sleep deprivation might contribute to excess pounds in adults and children. They are also the first to suggest that REM sleep may be especially important in weight control. REM (for ‘rapid eye movement) sleep is the stage in which vividly remembered dreams usually occur. Research also suggests that sleep metabolism is highest during REM sleep compared with other sleep stages, and that a lack of REM sleep may be particularly likely to spur hormone changes that increase appetite. For the current study, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine had 335 children and teenagers each spend three consecutive nights in the sleep lab. The children wore electrodes that recorded their brain activity and other physiologic functions as they slept. The researchers found that, on average, overweight children slept for 22 minutes less than normal-weight children did. They also took longer to enter the REM stage of sleep and spent less time in REM sleep overall. In general, the study found, each one-hour decrease in total sleep time made it twice as likely that a child was overweight. The risk linked to REM sleep was even greater; for every hour of REM sleep a child lost, the odds of being overweight tripled.”