Get Sleep, Make Better Food Choices

Ira Dreyfuss with HHS HealthBeat, a production of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, shares about the food choices we tend to make after a poor night’s sleep.

Burgers, doughnuts, pizza. Stay up real late working or studying, and your body seems to crave them. Carrots and apples, not so much. Why is that?

sleepAt the University of California, Berkeley, Matthew Walker measured people’s food choices and imaged their brain activity after a night’s sleep and after a night with no sleep. He found people preferred junk food after the sleepless night, and their sleep-deprived brains showed less capacity to make good-for-you choices and more I-wanna choices.

“There’s a shift in the behavioral choices that people are making, and that seems to be co-occurring with those changes in brain activity.”

So, if you get enough sleep, you may choose better and eat more healthfully.

The study, which appeared in the journal Nature Communications, was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

Learn more at



The More TV Before Bedtime, the Later Kids Get to Sleep

A study coming out of New Zealand found that the more TV children watch before bedtime, the less sleep they get. The study appeared online in Pediatrics 2013.

sleepChildren and teens that spent the most time in front of a screen were more likely to go to sleep later than those who were engaged in non-screen sedentary activities before bed.

Sleep duration in younger people has declined rapidly over the past 100 years, researchers noted, adding that not enough sleep is associated with behavior and health issues.

To investigate associations between activities, the researchers used data from a nationally representative, cross-sectional survey of New Zealand children and teens, ages 5 to 18. Participants were interviewed in-person and then follow-up was done through telephone interviews between September 2008 and May 2009.

Baseline face-to-face interviews gathered information on participant characteristics and 1 to 2 days of data on use of pre-sleep time. The follow-up gathered 2 additional days of data. Younger children’s parents would assist with recalling activities when necessary.

Participants reported time of sleep onset, sedentary behavior, physical activity, and self-care during the 90 minutes before sleep by selecting from a list of roughly 250 activities. Activities were given energy costs and psychometric properties, and were recounted with time spent engaged in each activity.

Times of sleep onset were categorized as very early, early, late, and very late. Participants were grouped by ages 5 to 12 and 13 to 18.

A total of 2,017 survey participants were included in the current analysis. The mean age was 11.6, just over half were male (52.9%), and most were of New Zealand European ethnicity (71.4%).

Overall, younger participants went to bed earlier than older ones. The most common activities before bed were watching television while sitting (47.8%), dressing/undressing before bed (41.8%), and brushing one’s teeth (41.5%), and all were considered low-intensity activities (metabolic equivalents ranging from 1 to 2).

“In New Zealand, a maximum of 2-hours of screen time per day is recommended for young people,” the authors noted, adding that the roughly half hour of screen time before bed accounted for one quarter of a child’s daily recommended screen time.

Researchers also found that participants who reported later sleep onset also reported up to 13 more minutes of screen time before bed than those who went to bed earlier. Additionally, early sleep onset was associated with significantly less time in screen-based sedentary activity versus later sleep onset.

Those who went to bed earlier also spent more time engaged in non-screen sedentary behaviors, “The largest time differences between those of early and late sleep onset were for screen time, which suggests that this set of activities may be an appropriate target for interventions to promote earlier sleep onset and subsequently improve sleep duration in young people,” researchers concluded.



Where Does Your Preschool Child Sleep?

Where does your child sleepSome young children are perfectly content to sleep in their cribs or junior beds whether they are alone in a room or with siblings.

Others may go to bed in their crib or bed but wake screaming and cannot be comforted, except by getting into mommy and daddy bed and spending the rest of the night there. Still others will not even start out the night in their own bed and the only way anyone in the house is going to get a night’s sleep is if little one gets to go to sleep in mommy and daddy’s bed.

In an article written by Dr. Sears, a practicing pediatrician for over 30 years and father of eight children, he speaks to the concerns that many parents have about allowing their preschool child to sleep with them by answering a question from a reader who wrote,”Our three-year-old wakes up in the middle of the night and either demands to sleep in our bed or insists that Mommy comes sleep in her room. How can we break this habit?”

Dr. Sears answers by advising the parent that she needs to determine if  her child’s desire to sleep with her is a habit or a need. He reminds parents that nighttime can be scary for little people.

If it isn’t fear that is the cause of wanting parent contact during the night time hours, than what could be the reason? Dr. Sears suggests that the need for nighttime contact may be particularly strong if a child had little or no contact with the parent(s) during the day.

The key is to find a solution that meets both a parent’s need for privacy and sleep and a child’s need for attachment and security.

Here are some suggestions Dr. Sears made for addressing the sleep situation:

  • Lie down with your child in her room and parent her to sleep with a story, a back rub, and some cuddle time.
  • Put a futon or mattress at the foot of your bed and explain that if she wakes up she can come and sleep in her “special bed.” Your three-year-old needs to understand the importance of not disturbing your sleep. If she needs comfort during the night, tell her to tiptoe quietly and slip into her special bed without waking mommy or daddy.
  • Above all, don’t feel you are spoiling your child or that she is psychologically disturbed because she can’t sleep on her own. Many emotionally healthy children simply enjoy the nighttime security of sleeping close to their parents.
  • Remember that the time your youngster spends in your room (or in your bed) is relatively short, but it encourages a positive life-long attitude about bedtime, conveying that sleep is a pleasant – rather than fearful – state to enter.

To read more of Dr. Sears advice on children’s sleep problems go to


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