If your child is not getting enough sleep he/she is at higher risk of becoming obese, say researchers from the University of Bristol, UK. The researchers believe that lack of sleep may be one of the major contributory factors in the obesity explosion among children today.

The scientists say that lack of sleep may alter hormones so that children end up consuming more food, as well as the wrong types of food. Sleepy children, because they are tired, are also less physically active during their waking hours.

Previous studies have indicated that lack of sleep among adults can alter normal metabolism and raise the risk of becoming fat, developing insulin resistance, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

The researchers said more needs to be known about what factors influence the balance between energy intake and energy expenditure.

Studies have shown that leptin production is lower in people who do not sleep enough, when compared to people who get enough sleep. Leptin is a hormone our body produces when our energy levels are low. Studies have also shown that ghrelin levels are higher in people who sleep too little. Ghrelin is a hormone released by the stomach - it tells the brain that you are hungry. (PLoS Medicine Vol. 1, No. 3, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.0010062)

In a study of 13,000 children who were followed up on since they were born, it was found that children who sleep less are less active and spend less time outdoors. Children who watch lots of television tend to sleep less.

The researchers found that toddlers aged 30 months who did not sleep enough were much more likely to be obese when they reached 7 years.

The scientists said that gadgets which distract children from sleep, such as televisions, computers and cellphones, should be removed from bedrooms.

"The mechanisms for the interaction between sleep and metabolism"
Dr Shahrad Taheri
Bristol University
Laboratories for Integrative Neurosciences and Endocrinology
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