Why having a TV in your child’s bedroom increases their risk of weight problems

Children's health

New research claims that a TV in the bedroom can be detrimental to children’s health, thanks largely to the effect of TV on sleep length and quality.

A study by University College London has produced findings which suggest that children with TVs in their bedrooms are at increased risk of becoming overweight.

The study looked at 12,000 young children across the UK and analysed their TV habits. They found that by age 7, over half the children involved had TVs in their bedroom.

During the study, parents were asked to rate how many hours a day their children spent watching TV. When the children reached 11, researchers examined their body mass index and their percentage of body fat. The results found a clear correlation between extended TV habits and a less healthy BMI.

Girls who had a TV in their bedroom by the age of 7 had a 30% higher chance of being overweight by the time they were 11. Boys were around 20% more likely to be overweight, compared to children who did not have a TV in their bedroom.

Dr Anja Heilmann, one of the researchers on the study, said: “Our study shows there is a clear link between having a TV in the bedroom as a young child and being overweight a few years later.”

How does a TV in the bedroom increase children’s risk of weight gain?

Experts involved in the study agreed that high levels of screen time exposed children to a damaging combination of potential health risks. But how exactly does this extra TV time result in weight gain?

One way is by encouraging poor eating habits, as watching increased amounts of television has been associated with a greater food intake, particularly unhealthy foods. Professor Russell Viner of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) acknowledged this link when he discussed the university’s findings, highlighting that they must be taken seriously.

Viner said: “With a third of 11-year-old children in England overweight and almost one in five obese, urgently tackling the childhood obesity epidemic is absolutely vital.

We know that high levels of screen time expose children to increased risks of being overweight on a number of fronts, creating a damaging combination of a more sedentary lifestyle, increased exposure to junk food advertising, disruption to sleep and poorer ability to regulate eating habits when watching TV.”

In his speech, Viner touched upon the other key way having a TV in the bedroom can promote childhood obesity: by encouraging a lack of sleep.

Researchers say that although the study didn’t produce one clear cause for the weight gain, it’s highly likely that the main reason a TV in the bedroom results in a higher risk of ill health is because children are less likely to sleep as long.

Why is sleep so important to children’s health?

Sleep is important to all of us, but especially children. Sleep, along with diet and exercise, are the three most important factors for a child’s development. When children sleep, blood supply to the muscles is increased, tissue repair and growth take place and vital hormones are released which help to facilitate both mental and physical development.

Sleep helps children to process their thoughts and consolidate memories, so not only will their bodies be healthier but their minds will too. That’s why results such as the ones obtained by University College London are so important, as they show us just some of the many consequences of choosing screen time over sleep.

Sleep is a vital aspect of everyone’s health, whether child or adult. Discover more about the Science of Comfort with Mammoth by ordering our information pack today.

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