Christchurch Press 27/05/2011
Children who do not get enough sleep have an increased risk of becoming overweight, a New Zealand study has found. The University of Otago study, published in the online version of the British Medical Journal (BMJ) today, found young children who slept less than an average of 11 hours a night had a significantly increased risk of obesity by the age of seven, even after other lifestyle factors were taken into account. Co-author Barry Taylor, a professor of paediatrics and child health, said it was “wonderful” to be published in the BMJ. “Obesity is such a big issue, it’s very nice to get it published in this way.” The five-year study showed that lack of sleep was shown to be a great factor in obesity levels than physical activity levels or diet, Taylor said. A prolonged lack of sleep could also have other effects on long term health and could impact the way children learned, he said. However, every extra hour of sleep a night reduced their obesity risk by 61 per cent. Previous studies had shown a link between shorter sleep duration and increased body weight in children, but this was the most extensive study to date, Taylor said.