A study just published in The Journal of Pediatrics showed that pre-school children who went to bed by 8 p.m. were much less likely to become obese when they reached adolescence. The children who went to bed “late”, after 9 p.m., were twice as likely to become obese than the kids who went to bed earlier.
The research followed a total of 977 children, from 10 medical centers in the USA, who were all born in 1991. Then when the children averaged 41/2 years of age, in the years 1995-96, the mothers were surveyed as to their child’s bedtime. Years later, when the children were an average of 15 years old, their body mass index was measured, and was compared with their bedtimes.
About ¼ of the pre-school children had bedtimes at or before 8 p.m, About half went to bed between 8 pm and 9 pm, and about ¼ of the children had what was defined as “late” bedtimes (after 9 pm).
Late bedtimes doubles risk of obesity
Among the children who had the early bedtimes, only 10 % were obese at age 15. Of the children who had bedtimes from 8 to 9 pm, 16 % were obese in adolescence. For the children in the late bedtime group (after 9 pm), 23% were obese at age 15. So the children who went to bed late had more than double the risk of obesity in adolescence.
As we have discussed here in the blog, sleep deprivation in adults has already been proven to have many bad health effects, including a higher risk of obesity. The reason for this seems to be that people who lack sleep develop hormonal changes that make them hungrier. They eat more, and gain more weight. The same process may also occur in children when they are very young, which gives another reason for parents to ensure their children get enough sleep.
The principal author of the study, Dr. Sarah Anderson, notes that while insisting on an earlier bedtime does not ensure the children will get more sleep, it does help. Parents have much more control over when a child goes to bed than when a child wakes up. Establishing a consistent earlier bedtime routine makes it more likely that children will get the sleep they need, to perform at their best.
Finally, parents should be thinking that obesity in their children is not just a temporary problem. Children who are obese are often set up for a lifetime battle against obesity, with the associated increased risks of heart disease and diabetes.
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