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Sleep problems in children associated with an unhealthy lifestyle

In a recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, researchers investigated the negative effects of sleep problems in children.

Forty percent of students aged 6 to 17 report a lack of good sleep habits. However, healthy sleep patterns are essential in childhood and adolescence. Good sleep fuels important physical and cognitive processes at these critical developmental periods which discern growth and quality of life. As a result, previous research has hypothesized that staying awake has numerous adverse health effects beyond a lack of energy, which the current study sought to elucidate.

In the study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, Tambalis and colleagues assessed the impact of various lifestyle factors on sleep habits in Greek schoolchildren. In the self-report health survey carried out on 177,091 students, the researchers took note of their diet, physical activity, and any sedentary activities performed. Their sleep patterns and its relation to physical wellness were assessed afterward. Children or adolescents who had slept less than nine or eight hours a day in their respective age groups were categorized as sleep deprived.

Bad diet, excess body weight, and less exercise increased likelihood of sleep deprivation

The study found that males and children aged 6 to 12 were more likely to experience unstable sleep patterns in comparison to females and adolescents aged 13 to 17. However, poor lifestyle factors such as a bad diet, excess body weight, less physical fitness, and more inactivity increased the likelihood of sleep deprivation within both sexes and across all ages. Still, despite these results, the study nevertheless has its limitations such as the failure to account for sleep quality or disorders and a reporting bias amongst the students.

There is a need to promote better sleep in schoolchildren

With an ever-growing proportion of students forgoing from good quality sleep, sleep problems in children continue to be downplayed. Tambalis and colleagues denote that the most surprising of the study’s results was that children who had healthy sleep patterns had higher levels of aerobic capacity. They proposed that their improved aerobic capacity, which increases the amount of oxygen supplied to the body, may be due to more physical activity performed during the day.

Their findings emphasize the need to promote better sleep in schoolchildren as these factors contribute to all areas of life, potentially supporting their lung and heart fitness for many years to come.

Written by Helen Marzec


  1. Insufficient sleep in children is associated with poor diet, obesity and more screen time. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2018-11/aaos-isi111218.php
  2. Tambalis, K. D., Panagiotakos, D. B., Psarra, G., &Sidossis, L. S. (2018). Insufficient sleep duration is associated with dietary habits, screen time, and obesity in children. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine14(10), 1689-1696.


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