QUEBEC, March 29 (UPI) -- Children who sleep less than 10 hours a night are 3.5 times as likely to be overweight as children who sleep 12 hours or more, Canadian researchers say.
The Laval University team said no other factor analyzed in the study of 422 children ages 5-10 had as great an impact on children's obesity as the time they spent sleeping.
"It's ironic that part of the solution to obesity might lie in sleep, the most sedentary of all human activities," said researcher Angelo Tremblay.
"My best prescription against obesity in children would be to encourage (children) to move more and to make sure they get enough sleep," he said.
The team theorizes that short-sleep nights drop the level of leptin, a hormone that decreases hunger, while boosting the level of ghrelin, a hormone that increases hunger.
The study, which found 24 percent of the girls and 20 percent of the boys were overweight, was published in the International Journal of Obesity.