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Children who are regularly tucked into bed by 8 p.m. are far less likely to become obese teenagers new research has found.

Bedtimes after 9 p.m. appeared to double the likelihood of obesity later in life, according to a study from The Ohio State University College of Public Health.

“For parents, this reinforces the importance of establishing a bedtime routine,” said Sarah Anderson, lead author and associate professor of epidemiology.

“It’s something concrete that families can do to lower their child’s risk and it’s also likely to have positive benefits on behaviour and on social, emotional and cognitive development,” Anderson said. It also arms paediatricians with scientifically based advice for parents.

Excess weight in children is a major health concern in the United States. Approximately 17 percent – 12.7 million – of children and adolescents are obese, according to the latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Obesity can set kids up for a lifelong struggle with weight and health complications that can accompany it, including diabetes and heart disease.

The new research, which appears in the The Journal of Pediatrics, used data from 977 children who were part of the Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development. That project followed healthy babies born at 10 U.S. sites in 1991.

Anderson and her co-authors divided preschool bedtimes into three categories: 8 p.m. or earlier, between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m., and after 9 p.m. The children were about 4 ½ years old when their mothers reported their typical weekday bedtime.

The researchers linked pre schoolers’ bedtimes to obesity when the kids were teens, at an average age of 15.

“Having the same routine every night is important so children know what to expect,” said Dr. Meena Khan, asleep medicine specialist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “Kids do well with a schedule and a routine. They do better with that than one night they go to bed at 8 p.m., another night they go to bed at 9 p.m.”

Putting a child to bed early doesn’t guarantee he or she will fall immediately into a deep sleep, Anderson said, but establishing a consistent bedtime routine makes it more likely that children will get the amount of sleep they need to be at their best, Anderson said.

Share your comments below.

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  • routine is so important – how cute is the baby in the photo!!

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  • i’m not sure how this links together. maybe the lack of attention extends to meals being made with lack of effort as well

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  • My kids were tucked up by 8 for most of their primary school years. Happy report they’re both healthy weights, maybe a little bit under if anything

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  • I don’t believe the obesity thing however I do believe a good bedtime routine is very important.

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  • We have had a strict bedtime routine since our daughter was a baby

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  • It’s so important to teach good bedtime routines young. Even at my age I wish I had a better bedtime routine, I usually rely on using my phone to get my tired enough to fall asleep and I go to bed so late I wake up tired. You can imagine the effects on little kids. Sure they might not go to sleep until 9 but atleast they are winding down and have the opportunity to go to sleep if they really need it. And it’s harder to fall asleep once you hit overtired. For my own sanity I hope my children have a 7pm bedtime so I have some me time before bed. Currently my son is only 8 months so he’s down at 7 without a fight.

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  • I’ve always been tough on strict bedtime routines in our house. Even when my son continues to point out that all his friends get to stay up later. We know exactly what our son needs in terms of sleep to function well, and thankfully, pre-teen he was always in bed by 8. At 15, he still gets nearly 10 hours a night sleep on school nights.

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  • oh I thought I was a bad mum because my kids didn’t go to bed until 8pm! – glad to know I’m not doing too much harm to them.

    What an interesting article.

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  • I believe in structure and routine throughout the day and certainly in regards to bedtime (also for myself, lol ????).

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  • I think children need routine in every facet of their lives – they then know the boundaries and are happy to work within them. My kids went to bed at 7.30pm even with daylight saving and they are all slim and fit adults these days.

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  • kids sleeping all niggt is good enough for me right now!

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  • There are so many benefits to a good night’s sleep.

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  • We’ve done the 7pm-7am from a baby (6+ months) & it’s been great. Sleep is so underrated!

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  • I agree completely in the importance of a sleep routine for our kids. The benefits are enormous!

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  • I was surprised to learn from 2 dieticians that during sleep your metabolism burns surplus carbohydrates. Combinedf with a strict healthy diet it will in fact stop people from gaining surplus weight. Also If you stay up later you tend to look for food to nibble on and very often don’t make good choices.

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