This is yet another reason to keep those phones and tablets away from kids before bedtime. A new study published in The Journal of Pediatrics–from researchers at the Ohio State University–reveals that preschoolers who sleep early are far less likely to become obese teenagers, compared to those who sleep later in the evening.
Read these moms and dads: kids who sleep past nine in the evening are twice likely to become obese later in life. Associate professor of epidemiology–and the lead author of the research–Sarah Anderson has told the state university’s publication that the study reinforces the importance of establishing a bedtime routine for the youngsters, and it is something concrete that parents can do to lower their child’s risk of becoming obese.
She also added that it is likely to have positive benefits on the child’s behavior too, in addition to his or her social, emotional and cognitive development.
Apart from giving parents a concrete evidence that early bedtime promotes good health, it is also giving pediatricians a paper backed by science, Anderson adds.
Although putting a child to bed early is important, it does not guarantee that kids will fall into a deep sleep. The research team says establishing a ‘consistent’ bedtime routine helps kids achieve good amount of sleep they need.
Anderson also acknowledges the fact that having early bedtime in some households is more challenging than others. “Families have many competing demands and there are tradeoffs that get made,” she explains. “For example, if you work late, that can push bedtimes later in the evening.”
In the report, the team also cited a previous study which suggests that kids are innately programmed to be ready to fall asleep well before nine in the evening. Of course with social media, and the growing popularity of hand-held devices, the development of kids has been arguably changing.
The team led by Anderson has used the data with nine hundred and seventy-seven children who were part of the Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development which followed healthy babies born in ten sites in the United States in 1991.
They then divided the preschool bedtimes into three categories. First, the group with kids who slept eight p.m. or earlier. Second, those who slept between eight and nine in the evening, and finally, there’s a group of kids who slept past nine p.m. The children were about four and a half years old when their parents reported their typical weekday bedtime.
With the data, the team compared the preschooler’s bedtimes with obesity when they were teens at an average age of fifteen.
Anderson says they have found a ‘striking difference,’ and that is only one in ten of the children in the earliest bedtimes group is considered obese teen, compared to about sixteen percent of children in the eight to nine p.m. group. Meanwhile, the late sleepers group has twenty-three percent of obese teens.
Half of the kids in the study were in the ‘middle category,’ researchers have added.
Obesity in the United States
In the United States, childhood obesity (apart from adult obesity) is quickly becoming a major problem. The CDC says that about seventeen percent of children and adolescents from two to nineteen years old are obese.
The American health institute says they have found a link between obesity and household education level, and it is to me a good indication that information is key to avoiding obesity.
Meanwhile in the research by Anderson and her team, it was found that later bedtimes were more common in children who were not white, with parents that had less education, and who lived in lower-income households. Compare that to the recent CDC data which say that obesity among children whose parents completed college was about half that of those whose parents did not complete high school.