UF researchers to study interaction of sleep, eating, activity in children

As national pediatric overweight and obesity rates continue to plateau around 33 percent, researchers have also noted a parallel rise in the proportion of children who don’t sleep well enough or long enough. 

This fall, researchers at the University of Florida will begin a new study examining how sleep, eating and physical activity patterns interact in children ages 6 to 9 years old. The Sleep, Eating, and Activity study is one of the first of its kind to focus on how the timing of when children go to sleep and wake up might influence how active they are and what they eat. The study is led by clinical psychology doctoral student Kendra Krietsch, M.S., and David Janicke, Ph.D., a professor in the department of clinical and health psychology at the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions, a part of UF Health. 

“Many parents are aware that sleep is important to their children’s health but are a little fuzzy on the details,” Krietsch said. “This study will be able to give us more specific information about how bedtime might impact things like a child’s appetite or motivation to go play ball outside.” 

Previous research has found that school-aged children currently sleep less now than they ever have before, and are also less active than they were several decades ago. Recent large-scale epidemiological studies show that sleep influences weight and weight-related behaviors, yet little is known about the behavioral and physiological changes that may be responsible for weight gain.

Results from the UF study have the potential to inform the study of children’s activity and eating practices and may ultimately help inform prevention and intervention efforts aimed at addressing broader issues of childhood obesity, the researchers say.

Researchers are looking to enroll healthy children between the ages of 6 and 9 who live in Alachua County. To participate, children must have a parent or legal guardian who is willing to help them track their sleep, eating and activity patterns throughout the study. Participating families will be involved for approximately four weeks and will complete nearly all aspects of the study at home. Families may attend several in-person meetings at UF Health Shands Hospital, or have researchers come to their homes. Families will be given compensation for completing study components throughout. For more information on the Sleep, Eating, and Activity study, please call the study office at 352-294-5717 or visit pedspsych.phhp.ufl.edu/studies. Team members will help parents determine their family’s eligibility.

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Jill Pease

Public Relations Director, College of Public Health and Health Professions

Jill Pease is the public relations director for the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions. She is responsible for developing public relations and communications strategies to promote the...Read More