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The Sleep Diet

Lisa Hinz PhD • PhD • Mar 26, 2013

choosing healthy foods for kids

Many adults do not know or appreciate the role of restorative sleep in achieving and maintaining an appropriate weight.  Getting the right amount of sleep has many physiological effects on the body, but the role in weight maintenance is in controlling two appetite hormones, Ghrelin and Leptin.  Ghrelin is the hormone secreted when the stomach is empty telling us to eat.  Leptin is secreted when the stomach is full and signals us to stop eating.  When we do not get the requisite eight hours of sleep per night, there is more Ghrelin in the bloodstream increasing hunger and attraction to high carbohydrate, calorie dense foods.  There is also less Leptin available to put the brakes on eating when we are satisfied.

Sixty-five percent of Americans are overweight or obese and separate surveys demonstrate that 63% of adults in the US do not get the recommended eight hours of sleep per night.  Could there be a correlation?  An interesting “sleep diet” study showed that all sleepy childother things being equal, adults who increased their sleep to eight hours and did nothing else, lost weight compared to those who slept their usual 6.9 hours per night. 

A lack of sleep could be affecting our children in similar ways, especially if you believe that eight hours per night is a good amount of sleep for a child.  As you can see from the chart below, children have varying sleep needs depending on their age, and all children need more than eight hours of sleep. 

  • You can help your child get more sleep by establishing a regular bedtime and waking time, even on the weekends. 
  • Sleep also can be improved by turning off the television, video games and computer at least a half hour before bedtime.  Electronic activities are stimulating to the brain and keep us alert when we need to calm down; and light from electronic screens can interfere with the production of the sleep hormone Melatonin. 
  • Finally, help improve sleep by using the hour before bed to develop a sleep routine that calms your children and signals sleep is coming: bathe, brush and floss teeth, read a story, sleep. 
  • Older children and teenagers depend on sleep routines and calming activities before bed too; always encourage this soothing regularity


Sleep Requirements


14-15 hours


12-14 hours


11-13 hours

School Aged Children

9-11 hours


9-10 hours


Other benefits of a regular sleep schedule include increased academic performance and a lower lifetime incidence of anxiety disorders and depression.  So parents, putt your children on the “Sleep Diet” and help them achieve peace body, mind, and spirit.

Written by Lisa Hinz PhDWritten on Mar 26, 2013Last updated on Aug 27, 2013




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