A lack of sleep and quality zzz’s may make kids obese and put them at risk of illnesses, according to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics and reported by HealthDay News.

For the study, researchers monitored the sleep patterns of more than 300 children, ages 4 to 10, for one week. Next, scientists compared kids’ sleep patterns with their BMI or body mass index (a ratio of weight to height).

Researchers found that children who got the recommended 9.5 to 10 hours of sleep showed no risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. But when children got decreased amounts of sleep, their risk of obesity increased. (The children slept an average of eight hours each night.)

“Kids who had the shortest sleep and had a more disorganized sleep schedule had more than a fourfold increase in the risk of being obese,” said lead study author David Gozal, MD, chair of pediatrics at Comer Children’s Hospital in Chicago.

What’s more, kids with an increased risk of obesity also had higher risk of cardiovascular problems and pre-diabetes.

But here’s the good news. When kids slept longer on the weekends and holidays to compensate for their sleep loss, they lowered their risk of obesity and metabolic issues from fourfold to a little less than threefold.

“It did not normalize it,” Gozal said. “It’s still a risk, but not as much as keeping your crazy short sleep schedule even during weekends.”

In general, doctors suggest parents create a sleep-friendly environment so kids get adequate sleep. That means reduced cell phone, computer and TV usage, especially at night.

You can also help fight childhood obesity during kids’ waking hours. Click here to learn more.