A new study conducted at the University of Illinois says that children who are raised by families that prioritize shut-eye are less likely to be obese.
The study, published in Frontiers in Psychology, examined the sleep routines of 337 US preschool children and their families, taking into account socioeconomic characteristics and observing the influence of TV time and meal routines.
Researchers considered four routines protective against childhood obesity including limited TV time, not having a bedroom TV, quality family meal time and adequate sleep.
Yet sleep was the only factor that made a difference in the results.
Children who slept 10 hours per day or more were less likely to suffer obesity than those who did not, regardless of the other protective routines.
Given the importance of sleep, the most likely factor in a child's risk for obesity was the parental sleep routine.
In a chain reaction, parents who slept inadequately had children who did the same and were therefore more likely to be overweight.
"Parents should make being well rested a family value and a priority," said Barbara H. Fiese, director of the U of I's Family
Resiliency Center and Pampered Chef Endowed Chair. "We viewed how long parents slept and how long children slept as part of a household routine and found that they really did go together."
Sufficient sleep has long been linked to healthy weight management and children are hardly new study subjects.
A recent study by the University College London found that 16-month-old toddlers who slept less than 10 hours per day increased their calorie consumption by 10 per cent over those who slept 13 hours per day.
A 2009 study by the European Centre of Taste Science in Dijon in central France found participants were likely to consume up to 22 per cent more calories than normal after a bad night's sleep.