Your Preschooler’s Bedtime May Impact Obesity Late in Life

By Alexa Bigwarfe

Researchers at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development tested and proved a theory that preschool-aged children with earlier bedtimes have lower risk for adolescent obesity and found this to be a true statement. The results of the study, published in the Journal of Pediatrics, July 2016, found that pre-school aged children with earlier bedtimes were 50% less likely to become obese as an adolescent than the children with later bedtimes.

The researchers studied over 1300 participants from the time they were pre-school aged until they were 15 years old, and found that the children with bedtimes after 8 p.m. as preschoolers significantly increased their risk of obesity as a teen. The study further showed that “Each additional hour of sleep when children were 5-11 years-old, predicted a mean BMI approximately 1-unit lower at age 32 years and approximately a 30% reduction in the risk of obesity (BMI ≥30).” There have been other studies that suggested late bedtimes could be associated with weight gain.

This tells us that bedtime is one more factor parents can regulate to reduce chances of obesity, in addition to other positive benefits for young children. The research team recommended that parents of young children create routines and establish earlier bedtimes when possible. An adequate night of sleep is not only linked to healthy body weight, but also plays a role in healthy social and emotional functioning. Other studies have shown associations between earlier bedtimes and fewer behavioral difficulties in school, less attention problems and aggression. Earlier bedtimes also have been shown to reduce children waking up at night. Overall, more sleep is better for our young children.


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