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This content is taken from the University of Wollongong's online course, Preventing Childhood Obesity: an Early Start to Healthy Living. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 7 seconds Over the course of a lifetime, we spend about one third of our time sleeping. The fact that infants and young children spend more time asleep than they do awake suggests that sleep is an incredibly important and essential aspect during this period of development. Indeed, evidence shows that sleep is important for many things from brain development, learning, memory, and information processing, to immune system functioning and physical growth, as well as emotional, behavioral, and many other aspects of health and well-being. When infants don’t get enough sleep or when they sleep poorly, this can lead to a number of adverse outcomes.

Skip to 0 minutes and 44 seconds Initially, there are many signs that might indicate that a baby is tired commonly shown through changes in behavior such as they might close their fists, yawning, the fluttering of their eyelids, or even frowning or looking worried in newborns, to clumsiness, grizzling, or crying, boredom, or demands for attention, or fussiness with food in infants and toddlers. And although these behaviors are very normal and impossible to avoid from time to time, consistently not getting enough sleep or sleeping poorly can have larger and more long-term ramifications on a child’s health, development, and well-being. If not addressed, these sleep problems as well as emotional, behavioral, and physical ramifications associated with this may persist into childhood and even later into adulthood.

Skip to 1 minute and 32 seconds In particular, and pertinent to this course, research is now showing an association may exist between obesity and sleep in children. This week’s module will explore the basics of sleep and the science behind it to give you an understanding of what sleep actually is, how it changes across the lifespan, and the basic neuroscience of what happens in the brain and the body while we are sleeping. From there, we will talk about what happens when we don’t get enough sleep, what is impacting on children’s sleep today, and how we can optimize and prioritize sleep to ensure the best early start to healthy living.

Sleep and obesity

And so we have reached the final chapter of our course and are ready to learn about the vital role that sleep plays in providing children with a healthy early start to life.

Over the last few weeks we have learned about the importance of nutrition, physical activity and a healthy balance of screen time in the lives of young children.

This week we will take a closer look at how these elements, combined with healthy sleep patterns, are essential for preventing obesity in children and enhancing their health and development.

We will explore the science behind sleep and what happens when we don’t get enough sleep. Talking to leading experts and researchers in the field we gain strategies for optimising and prioritising sleep for the young children in our lives.

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This video is from the free online course:

Preventing Childhood Obesity: an Early Start to Healthy Living

University of Wollongong