BUSY parents have been given tips on how to get their children to sleep more as a new study indicates a lack of sleep leaves youngsters at risk of weight gain, particularly if their mother works outside the home.
Researchers suggested that children whose mothers work full time are more prone to putting on weight because they don't get enough sleep.
The US study, published in the journal 'Sleep Medicine', found that every hour of extra sleep above the average was associated with a nearly 7pc lower weight.
The researchers followed 247 mother-child pairs - of which two-third of the mothers were employed full time - for a year, calculating the children's body mass index at the beginning of the study and at the end again.
They suggested that because mothers were out working they may be more inclined to keep the children up later.
They also get the children up earlier in order to make sure everyone is ready for work and school.
The children of mothers in full-time employment got fewer hours of sleep on average than those whose mothers worked less than 20 hours per week, and were more likely to be overweight.
Safefood, the all-island food body, said adults and children who get more sleep are also less likely to be overweight.
It is probably linked to a combination of effects on our appetite and our motivation to be active after a good night's sleep.
Its tips to encourage more night-time slumber for children include:
• Have a regular bedtime routine;
• Encourage children to be active in the evenings to tire them out;
• Finish eating two or three hours before bedtime;
• Create a sleep-friendly environment that is dark, quiet, comfortable and cool;
• Keep your child's bedroom a TV-free zone and get them to charge their phones and other devices downstairs.
The recommended hours of sleep per night are:
• 11 hours for under five-year-olds;
• 10 hours+ for over five-year-olds;
• 9 hours for over 10-year-olds.
The study follows recent findings from health experts that Ireland's children are amongst the fattest in Europe.
If current trends continue, it's been predicted that half of the adult Irish population will be obese by 2030. There are 100,000 obese children in the country and 300,000 who are classed as overweight.
Worryingly, 31.8 pc of seven-year-olds have been classed as overweight or obese.
Apart from getting enough sleep parents, whether they work inside or outside the home, should be mindful of the other basics to prevent avoidable weight gain in children.
They include limiting portions and treats, increasing exercise, keeping an eye on TV-time and minimising sugary drinks.