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Children ‘risk obesity owing to lack of sleep’, experts warn

Poor sleep can lead to weight gain and bad snacking habits. Credit: PA

One in three primary school children is not getting enough sleep, putting them at risk of obesity, experts warn.

A new poll for the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) showed that 43% of adults sleep less than the recommended minimum of seven hours a night, while 32% of primary and 70% of secondary school pupils sleep for less than nine hours – the absolute minimum they should get.

The survey covered more than 6,000 primary and secondary school children and just over 1,500 adults.

Children are not getting enough sleep - which can affect their weight. Credit: PA

It also found that 80% of adults and 50% of secondary school students reported waking up at least once during the previous night.

Screens may be to blame for disturbed sleep, the poll suggests, with 59% of secondary school pupils, 50% of adults and 49% of primary school children saying they used a screen before bed on the previous night.

Some adult respondents also had high intakes of caffeine and alcohol.

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The poll also looked at breakfast habits and found that a quarter of secondary school pupils did not eat breakfast on the day of the survey, with one in 10 primary children saying the same.

Only 18% of secondary school students reported including any fruit or vegetables in their first meal of the day.

Dr Lucy Chambers, senior scientist at the BNF, said: “The implications of a bad night’s sleep can go much further than feeling tired.

“Where lack of, and disturbed, sleep can lead to both adults and young people feeling grumpy and irritable, regular poor-quality sleep can have a negative impact on dietary choices, including higher intakes of calories and more frequent snacking on less healthy foods.

“The BNF’s Task Force report, published earlier this year, highlighted that lack of sleep, and interrupted sleep, may be linked to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, obesity, and hypertension.”