Sleep deprivation ups the risk of obesity in tiny tots

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by Ann Douglas

tired toddlerIt's not just grownups who risk developing obesity-related health problems if they spend too little time sleeping and too much time watching TV.

Researchers from Harvard University Medical School have discovered that babies and toddlers who sleep fewer than 12 hours and who watch more than two hours of television a day have a 16 percent chance of becoming overweight by the age of three.

While previous studies have linked sleep deprivation and TV viewing habits with obesity in older children, adolescents, and adults, this is the first study to demonstrate that missing out on sleep and watching too much TV can affect the health of babies and toddlers, too.

Create a Restful Sleep Environment

Young children are likely to sleep better and for longer stretches of time if their sleep environment is:

  • Quiet: Use a white noise machine to block out loud noises
  • Dark: Use room-darkening shades to darken the room
  • Cool: A room temperature of between 60 and 65° F (16 to 18° C) helps to promote sleep

Keep electronic gizmoes and gadgets out of your baby and toddler's room so that he associates his room with sleep rather than play.

Limit Screen Time

You'll also want to limit your child's exposure to the TV and the computer at other times of day or ban it altogether until he gets a little older.

At his stage of life, you want him to be experiencing the joy of the real world rather than settling for something on an electronic version of the world. It's much healthier for him mind, body, and soul.

The study appears in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.

Ann Douglas is the author of numerous books about pregnancy and parenting including the bestselling "The Mother of All Pregnancy Books." She regularly contributes to a number of print and online publications, is frequently quoted in the media on a range of parenting-related topics, and has appeared as a guest on a number of television and radio shows. Ann and her husband Neil live in Peterborough, Ontario. with the youngest of their four children. Learn more at her site,

Copyright © Ann Douglas. Permission to publish granted to