Toddler sleep patterns matter

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Establishing a consistent sleep schedule for a toddler can be one of the most challenging aspects of child rearing, but it also may be one of the most important.

Research findings from a team including Lauren Covington, an assistant professor in the University of Delaware School of Nursing, suggest that children with inconsistent sleep schedules have higher body mass index (BMI) percentiles. Their findings, published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine, suggest sleep could help explain the association between household poverty and BMI.

“We’ve known for a while that physical activity and diet quality are very strong predictors of weight and BMI,” said Covington, the lead author of the article. “I think it’s really highlighting that sleep may be playing a bigger role here than it’s been given credit for.”

The study used data from an obesity prevention trial for mothers and their children living in Baltimore. All of the families were eligible for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and 70% were living at or below the poverty line. As part of the trial, 207 toddlers wore accelerometers that measured their sleep and physical activity for up to a week at a time. Mothers also completed a food diary that was compared with the Healthy Eating Index, a measure of diet quality based on the recommendations from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans…

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