Study suggests early bedtimes for children could reduce risk of obesity later in life
Getting young children into bed before 8pm can significantly reduce the risk of obesity in later life suggests new research published in the The Journal of Pediatrics.
According to the study by researchers from The Ohio State University College of Public Health, putting preschoolers to bed later in the evening, especially after 9pm, increases their risk of becoming obese.
To assess the effect of varying bedtimes, the team looked at data from 977 preschoolers who were part of the Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development, a project that followed healthy babies born at 10 different US sites in 1991.
Bedtimes for the children, who were aged around 4½, were split into three categories. Around a quarter of the children went to bed at 8pm or earlier, around half between 8pm and 9pm, and the remaining quarter after 9pm.
The researchers then linked the children’s bedtimes as preschoolers to the levels of obesity in the children ten years later when the average age of the children was 15.
The results showed that of the children who went to bed before 8pm, only 10 per cent were obese as teenagers.
However this number increased to 16 per cent for those that had gone to bed between 8pm and 9pm, and more than doubled to 23 per cent for those who had gone to bed the latest, after 9pm.
The study, which is the first to use data on obesity collected around a decade after the children were in preschool, also supports the existing research on the impact of sleep on obesity.
Previous studies have also shown that the majority of young children are biologically preprogrammed to be ready to fall asleep well before 9pm, with lead author Sarah Anderson commenting that, although putting children to bed earlier doesn’t guarantee that they will immediately fall asleep, it does make it more likely that they will get the amount of sleep they need.
“For parents, this reinforces the importance of establishing a bedtime routine,” she added, “It’s something concrete that families can do to lower their child’s risk and it’s also likely to have positive benefits on behavior and on social, emotional and cognitive development.”