“Consistently getting a good night's sleep may help protect children from becoming obese as adults, a study published Monday suggests. Researchers found that among more than 1,000 people followed from birth to age 32, those who got too little sleep as children were more likely than their well-rested counterparts to become obese adults. Even with a range of other factors considered -- like childhood weight and TV habits, and adulthood exercise levels -- there remained a link between sleep deprivation during childhood and obesity risk later in life. All of this supports the idea that early sleep habits have a direct effect on weight in the long term, according to Dr. Robert John Hancox, the study's senior author. ‘Although we cannot prove that this is a cause-and-effect relationship," he told Reuters Health, "this study provides strong evidence that it probably is.’ Hancox and his colleagues at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand, report the findings in the journal Pediatrics. Adults who had been "short sleepers" as children -- averaging fewer than 11 hours in bed each night -- generally had a higher BMI than those who'd gotten more sleep as kids. ‘Importantly, this is not because children who were short sleepers grew up to be short sleepers as adults,’ Hancox pointed out. ‘In other words, inadequate sleep in childhood appears to have long-lasting consequences.’ The findings, according to the researchers, suggest that weight control may stand as another reason for children to get a good night's sleep. Experts generally recommend that children between the ages of 5 and 12 sleep for about 11 hours each night, while teenagers should get 8.5 to 9.5 hours. It's thought that children today are getting less sleep than the generations before them did, Hancox noted. That trend, he added, could be helping to feed the rise in obesity."