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Obese kids lack sleep

19th October 2006

Lack of sleep could be a contributing factor in the UK’s soaring childhood obesity levels.

Dr Shahrad Taheri from Bristol University, claims today’s children get less sleep than in the past.  His findings suggest children are sleeping less than they need to which is disrupting the hormones necessary for controlling weight and appetite.  Dr Taheri blames TV viewing, computer games and mobile phones for keeping children up late and affecting the quality of their sleep.

Dr Taheri, of the university's Henry Wellcome Institute, said parents need to impose stricter controls on their children's sleeping routines, which could include removing electronic gadgets from the bedroom.  He said that lack of sleep was probably not the only answer to the country’s obesity problems, but it should be taken seriously as even small changes in energy balance can adversely affect a child.

One in four children aged between 11 and 15 years is now obese.  Studies have shown that sleep deprivation not only causes cravings for calorie-rich foods, it also leads to tiredness during the day, which may mean people lack sufficient energy to do physical activity, a major contributor to obesity.

Dr Taheri said mounting evidence suggested lack of sleep was a plausible contributory factor to the rise in obesity among children, with effects that led to weight gain in later life. The link between obesity and too little sleep appears to be particularly strong in children and young people and teenagers are also at risk because they need more sleep.

Dr Taheri said, "Ensuring adequate sleep in children and adolescents may not only help fighting against obesity, but could have other added health and educational benefits - for example improvements in academic performance.?


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