'Lack of sleep putting children at risk of obesity'
A lack of adequate sleep is putting children at risk of becoming overweight, experts warned today.
Insufficient sleep results in less energy for exercise and a stronger desire for high energy sugary foods.
The State-backed Safefood campaign to reduce childhood obesity is urging parents to make bedrooms screen-free and to charge phones and tablets elsewhere at night.
Paediatric consultant Fiona Healy said: "I'm seeing more children with weight issues where a lack of sleep or not enough quality sleep are significant factors.
"Sleep helps children's bodies to grow and develop while for brain and emotional growth, sleep also gives them time to make sense of their day," said Dr Healy of Temple Street Children's University Hospital in Dublin.
"While parents may think their children are getting enough sleep, the reality is they're probably not.
"What also doesn't help is that children's sleep is increasingly delayed or interrupted by the number of multiple screens in the home - whether that's smartphone, laptop, tablet or television.
"This screen time is having a negative effect on children's sleep and as a consequence, their health and weight."
New research found that children with sleep duration of less than 11 hours had a 58pc increased risk of becoming overweight.
Two-thirds of nine-year-olds watch between one and three hours television a day, with 10pc watching three hours or more.
These figures don't include time spent by children playing video games, on computers, tablets or smartphones. Almost half of nine-year-olds (45pc) have a TV in their bedroom.
Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan, director of health and nutrition at Safefood, said: "Children need to have wind-down time before bedtime, just as we adults do and we need to make children's bedrooms screen-free zones, and that includes charging all phones, tablets etc elsewhere at night," she said.
The website www.safefood.eu offers practical tips for parents for better bedtime routines for children.
Health Minister Leo Varadkar said: "Children who get enough sleep at night are more awake and alert during the day, which helps them to learn better in school. It also means they are less inclined to eat high energy foods, do more exercise, and stay at a healthy weight."