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.
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