Children who do not get adequate sleep may be at an increased risk of becoming obese, according to a new study in the journal Pediatrics.
According to lead researcher Dr. David Gozal of the University of Chicago in Illinois, children who sleep the least could be four times more likely to develop an unhealthy body weight.
"If a child has a tendency to be obese but gets adequate sleep, he is more likely to be protected than if he is not sleeping as much as he needs," Gozal told ABCnews.com. "Catch-up sleep is better than nothing and can help, but we don't think it can offer complete protection."
For the study, researchers used a special sleep monitoring bracelet on 308 children in Louisville, Kentucky. They followed the group, which ranged in ages from 4 to 10 years old, for one week. They found that those who slept the least were 4.2 times more likely to be obese.
"There is growing evidence for a link between sleep duration and childhood obesity. What is new … is that perhaps even more important than sleep duration is the effect of day to day variability of sleep wake timing on weight regulation," added Dr. Phyllis C. Zee, the director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.