Children who get less than the recommended amount of sleep each night have a higher chance of becoming fat, a study suggests.
Researchers found youngsters are 58 per cent more likely to become overweight if they fail to get at least eight hours each night.
Warwick University scientists, who led the study, today said there was a 'strikingly consistent' link between short sleep and obesity.
The findings come amid the childhood obesity epidemic in Britain, once branded a 'scandal' by Health and Social Care Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
Nearly half of primary school children are dangerously overweight in some parts of England, official figures show.
Researchers found youngsters are 58 per cent more likely to become overweight if they fail to get at least eight hours each night
But the new Warwick study, a review of 42 older experiments, suggests there could be a simpler way of tackling bulging waistlines in youngsters.
How was the study carried out?
The scientific trials that delved into the links between sleep and childhood obesity included 75,499 volunteers, who were no older than 18.
Youngsters were either labelled a short sleeper - they got less than recommended for their age, or a regular sleeper. They were followed for three years.
This grouping was based on guidelines from the National Sleep Foundation, a non-profit organisation in Washington DC that supports sleep research.
Its guidelines recommend infants, those aged between four and 11 months, get between at least 12 hours of kip each night and more than 15.
Toddlers should get between 11 and 14 hours, while children in preschool receive from 10 to 13 hours of sleep.
What did the study find?
At least nine hours is recommended for children from six to 13 - but no more than 11. All other teenagers are advised to get between eight and 10 hours.
The study, published in the journal Sleep, showed that the risk of obesity was 40 per cent higher in infants who didn't get the recommended amount of shut eye.
This jumped to 57 per cent for pre-school children and 123 per cent for those aged between six and 13. The risk was 30 per cent higher in other teenagers.
The findings of the study indicate that sleep may be an important potentially modifiable risk factor (or marker) of future obesity
Dr Michelle Miller, Warwick University
Dr Michelle Miller, study co-author, said: 'Being overweight can lead to heart disease and