The study found that 16 month-old children who slept for less than 10 hours a day consumed around 10 percent more calories on average than children who slept for more than 13 hours.
“The key message here is that shorter sleeping children may prone to consume too many calories,” said Abi Fisher of the Health Behaviour Research Centre at University College London.
This is the first study that directly links sleep to energy intake in children under age three.
In the study that involved 1,303 British families, researchers monitored sleep when children were 16 months old and diet at 21 months old.
While the exact causes remain unclear, the regulation of appetite hormones may become disrupted by shorter sleeping patterns, the study suggested.
“Although more research is needed to understand why this might be, it is something parents should be made aware of,” Fisher noted.
The study appeared in the International Journal of Obesity.