Too little exercise, too much junk food—most of us know these explanations for childhood obesity. But the amount of sleep your child gets may be just as important, according to a review of studies in the Archives of Disease in Childhood. Researchers found that kids who sleep less than the recommended amount at age 2 are more likely to be obese at age 7.
One reason: Fatigue alters the levels of appetite-regulating hormones, which can cause children to eat more, says Shahrad Taheri, M.D., author of the review.
To make sure your child gets all the snoozing she needs:
* Stick to regular sleep and wake-up times, even on weekends.
* Create a calming bedtime routine, like a warm bath followed by a book.
* Limit caffeinated beverages, especially before bed.
* Keep her room dark and quiet at night, which means no TV.
* Encourage her to exercise (active kids tend to sleep better)—but not right before heading to bed.
* Make sure she has enough downtime, since stress can lead to sleep problems.