Page last updated at 23:49 GMT, Monday, 7 April 2008 00:49 UK

Baby sleep 'link' to weight risk

A baby
Overweight children are on the increase

Lack of sleep and regular TV viewing increases the risk of babies and toddlers becoming overweight, a US study says.

Researchers found infants sleeping less than 12 hours a day and watching more than two hours of television had a 16% chance of becoming overweight.

The risk for those who got more sleep and watched less TV was 1%, the research into 915 infants showed.

The study was carried out by a team at Harvard Medical School.

It comes amid rising levels of obesity. About one in six children aged two to 15 in the UK are obese - up from one in 10 in the 1990s.

The issue of weight at this age is very important and is becoming more of a problem
Terence Stephenson, of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health

In the study, infant weight and measurements were taken at several visits up to three years of age.

Meanwhile, mothers regularly reported how many hours their child slept and watch TV each day.

Researchers suggested lack of sleep may increase the risk of weight problems as it stimulated hormones influencing appetite, leading those children to eat more.

Meanwhile, watching too much TV leads to more exposure to junk food advertising, which may affect diet, they added.

The Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine report said that the findings may also be relevant for older children.

Lead researcher Elsie Taveras said: "Mounting research suggests that decreased sleep time may be more hazardous to our health than we imagined.

"We need to investigate this further. But our findings suggest that parents may wish to remove TVs from children's rooms and encourage better quality sleep."

Terence Stephenson, vice president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: "The issue of weight at this age is very important and is becoming more of a problem.

"Overweight babies lead to overweight children and overweight adults. But what we need to know is whether children who watch more TV and sleep less are eating more and exercising less.

"I suspect TV and sleep may be a proxy for diet and exercise."

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