LifeTime WeightLoss Logo

« More than Just Calories In, Calories Out: The Caloric Balance Equation | Main | Worried about cardiovascular disease? Time for a "gut" check! »

Turn off the lights! And make sure the kids do too!

Like many other lifestyle issues, sleep problems are on the rise. Stress, late-night television, extended work days, late night athletic practice…the reasons are numerous. A poor night’s sleep may make you less productive the next day, but the long-term effects are more severe than that. Lack of sleep can cause a number of problems for kids as well. A new study on 14 to 16 year olds in Canada provides an important reminder of the importance of sufficient, quality and regular sleep.

Cardiac Issues and Adolescents

A 1600-student study in Canada found more than 20% of students had “fairly bad” or “very bad” sleep. Fourteen percent had trouble staying awake during the day at least once a week. This is without accounting for the students who were staying awake by using energy drinks, which another growing concern. Another surprising statistic was that seventeen percent of the students reported using a sleep medication! Dr. Biran McCrindle, one of the researchers and a pediatric cardiologist said “Sleep disorders in kids are on the increase. They are marching hand in hand with other increasing cardiovascular risk factors such as overweight and obesity, lack of physical activity, a poor diet, and high levels of unhealthy cholesterol.”(1)

Other Problems with Lack of Sleep

Many of the studies on sleep show that as hours of sleep go down, weight goes up.(2) When sleep is limited, it appears to have a dramatic effect on the body’s regulation of hormones. A small, controlled study of people on a reduced calorie diet showed those who had restricted sleep lost more muscle tissue, lost less body fat, had increased hunger and their body’s even shifted the types of calories they were burning, causing them to rely more on carbohydrate stores than being able to use body fat for fuel.

Aside from weight gain in youth and adults, a number of other problems arise from insufficient sleep. A study earlier this year showed that high-school seniors who were excessively tired during the day had an increased risk of depression. In the study, the average student slept only 6.1 hours per night during the week. Those who said they had excessive daytime sleepiness were three times more likely to have symptoms of depression.  Almost twenty percent of Americans say they have moderate to excessive sleepiness.


It’s free. It feels great when you get enough of it. It can make every day more productive than it otherwise would be. Getting enough sleep is a CRITICAL part of a Healthy Way of Life. If you have kids, remember that they’ll learn from your example. If you have a habit of staying up until 10:00, 11:00 or later, they’ll follow that habit. For my wife and I, we make it a point to get to bed as close to 9:00 as possible each night and have the same expectation for our kids, who are 14 and 16 years old. Though their friends might get to stay up later on school nights, we know while they’re in school the next day, it’s a lot more likely they’ll be alert and paying attention. Getting to bed means shutting down cell phones, I-Pods and televisions. It might be hard to break bad habits, but you’ll likely be amazed after a couple months of getting eight hours of sleep every night. It’s a small sacrifice for a more productive lifestyle, improved health and a leaner physique.

Written by Tom Nikkola - Director of Nutrition & Weight Management


  1. Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. Cardiac wakeup call for Canadian kids. EurekAlert! 26-Oct-2010
  2. Rutters F, Gerver WJ, Nieuwenhuizen AG, et al. Sleep duration and body-weight development during puberty in a Dutch children cohort. Int J Ob. 2010;34:1508-1514
  3. Nedeltcheva A, Kilkus J, Imperial J. Insufficient Sleep Undermines Dietary Efforts to Reduce Adiposity. Annals Int Med. 2010;153(7)435-441.
  4. American Academy of Sleep Medicine. High-School Seniors With Excessive Daytime Sleepiness Have an Increased Risk of Depression. ScienceDaily 11 June 2010. 27 October 2010­/releases/2010/06/100609083221.htm
  5. American Academy of Sleep Medicine. More Adults Report Excessive Sleepiness in the US Than in Europe. ScienceDaily 9 June 2010. 27 October 2010­/releases/2010/06/100608091852.htm

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>