Children's Sleep, Weight, and OT
Updated: Nov 13
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When I speak to parents about the services OT 4 ME offers in Florida, most of them are surprised that occupational therapy can help address a child’s weight. What makes occupational therapists different from other professions, is that instead of focusing on weight loss, we address how weight impacts their ability to do their occupations and vice versa.
If this is your first time visiting the OT 4 ME blog, we are currently on the fourth blog of the “How Weight Impacts Occupation” blog series. Each week, we have been talking about one of the occupations of childhood, and how it can be impacted by a child’s weight. So far we have discussed
This week, we are talking about SLEEP. Sleep is pretty much my favorite part of the day. I enjoy my getting ready for bed routine, crawling in bed with a book, and getting a nice long night of sleep. But, when my normal sleep is interrupted, I’m cranky, crave more junk food, and have a hard time thinking clearly.
Have you noticed any of this with your kids? How many hours do they need on average to feel rested? Maybe you’ve noticed that they don’t have a sleep routine, and can’t wind down before bed. Or, maybe with coronavirus and social distancing they are staying up all night watching TV and video games and spending all day in bed.
These behaviors and routines can impact health. Not only does weight impact sleep, but decreased sleep has also been linked to obesity.
Some of the most common ways that children and teens with obesity have told me that their sleep is disrupted:
1. They have obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a serious concern where your body isn’t getting all the air it needs during certain breaths. This research study states that 60% of kids with obesity also had sleep apnea. This can impact a child’s ability to get a restful night of sleep. If you have concerns about this with your child, make sure you talk to your doctor!
2. They sweat during the night.
3. They wake up frequently.
4. They’re not feeling tired.
A child’s ability to sleep throughout the night is not only related their physical weight, but also to their habits and routines. For example, many children stay up watching TV or playing video games instead of going to sleep. But this increased exposure to the blue light before bed could be keeping them awake longer. Or, they may be eating sugary foods too close to bed time and have too much energy.
So as occupational therapists what can we do to help with sleep?
We discuss and have you self-monitor your child’s sleep behaviors, habits, and routines, to determine whether it is helping or keeping them from sleeping. Then, we work on changing the environment or habits to better support restful sleep.
Is your child experiencing sleep difficulties? Contact us today for a free Lifestyle Assessment!
1. American Occupational Therapy Association. (2014). Occupational therapy practice framework: Domain and process (3rd ed.). American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 68, S1–S48. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2014.682006
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