Little girl looking at iPad in bed

Awakening to the need for sleep
Children need to sleep more, eat better and tune out

Health experts agree that far too many children in the United States are obese; and every new obesity study only reveals more about its negative, lifelong consequences.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that obesity — typically defined as being 20 percent above ideal weight for a particular height and age — has more than doubled in young children while quadrupling in adolescents during the past 30 years. The percentage of obese U.S. children ages 6-11 has risen from 7 percent in 1980 to nearly 18 percent in 2012.

The good news is that this is fixable; the bad news is that the fix is not easy.

Blake Jones, assistant professor of human development and family studies, explores obesity in children and says that a big step toward conquering the problem is, quite simply, a good night's sleep.

"We've found that one of the biggest predictors of obesity in children is insufficient sleep," Jones says. "We've been looking at stress, too. Kids who are stressed don't sleep as well, and kids who don't sleep enough are about three times more likely to be obese.

"The average 2- to 5-year-old should have a minimum of 10 hours of sleep and a max of 14 hours per night. What we're seeing is an average of nine hours, and for some groups, even less than that."

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