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Our kids are being kept awake by smartphones and tablets - and it's making them fat

Parents are being urged to make kids’ bedrooms ‘screen-free zones’.

Image: Shutterstock/Daleen Loest

A LEADING IRISH paediatrician has said she’s seeing more and more cases of children with weight issues “where a lack of sleep or not enough quality sleep are significant factors”.

Recent medical research has shown an association between sleep and weight in children. An analysis of 11 international studies found that children with sleep duration of less than 11 hours have a 58% increased risk of overweight and obesity, compared to other children.

The latest initiative from all-island body Safefood is aimed at increasing awareness of the issue. The group’s campaign is also advising parents to make bedrooms ‘screen-free zones’ and to charge phones and tablets elsewhere at night.

“From a physical point of view, 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,” Dr Fiona Healy, Paediatrician at Temple Street Children’s Hospital said.

“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.

Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan of Safefood added that while parents are often conscious of the health risks associated with everyday habits like too many ‘treat foods’ and not enough physical activity “they are unaware of how important quality sleep is for our children’s health”.

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.

Safefood’s new campaign will include new TV, radio and online ads.

Read: Dry, sunny … even warm. The weather forecast for the week is looking pretty good

Read: Our bodies are amazing, why don’t we give them the love they deserve?

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