A recent study conducted by the Ohio State University College of Public Health reveals that preschoolers with later bedtimes are at risk of developing obesity when they become teens. The findings were published on July 14 in the Journal of Pediatrics.

Researchers from the Ohio State University College of Public Health assessed the data of almost 1,000 four-year-old children participating in the Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development (a longitudinal study examining child care and development). In 1991, 977 healthy singleton births from 10 different US states were enrolled in the survey.

the more sleep preschoolers can get, it can lead to better outcomes for future adults. Image Credit: Healthy Learning Paths

In 1995-1996, when participants had four years old, mothers were asked about children’s weekly bedtime routine. Subjects were thus divided into three separate groups. Group number 1: children who slept at 8 p.m. or earlier, group number 2: children who slept between 8 p.m. and nine p.m., and group number 3 was composed by those children who have later bedtimes.

Researchers evaluated mother-child interaction, also, to assess maternal sensitivity.

Once subjects turned teens, scientists examined the Body Mass Index (BMI) of the children when they were about 15 years old and compared it to their bedtimes.

The study showed that when participants turned 15 years old, only 10 percent of the kids with the earliest bedtimes were obese. Among those who slept between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m., 16 percent became obese teens, and those children who went to bed after 9 p.m., had obesity problems when they became teenagers. The findings were equal for boys and girls from each group.

Results showed that a proper time to have healthy-weight teens is to send them to sleep at least at 8 a.m.

Obese Teens at Risk of Developing Colorectal Cancer and Sudden Death

Researchers pointed out that the findings emphasize the importance of having early bedtime routines, not only to reduce children’s risk of obesity but also because prior studies have proved that obesity in late teens might represent a risk to develop colorectal cancer and sudden death in their midlife.

According to Sarah Anderson, an associate professor of epidemiology at Ohio State University and author of the study from the Journal of Pediatrics, earlier bedtimes act as a protective shield against obesity. She pointed out that preschoolers whose bedtimes are at 8 or before were half as likely to be obese ten years later.

Dr. Sangeeta Chakravorty, director of the Pediatric Sleep Program at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, said that even if the study is not entirely clear about how much a child needs to prevent obesity, the findings highlight significant benefits obtained throughout healthy sleep habits. Benefits that also have significant effects on eating and exercising habits in future adults.

“It doesn’t tell us much about the total sleep time that the child needs in order to prevent obesity. However, it does say a lot about consistency and limit setting to develop good sleep habits. Sleep and appetite and nutrition are very closely linked neurologically speaking because they are both biological drives. So disruption in either can affect the other,” said Chakravorty.

Concerned with mother-child interaction assessment, it was observed that kids who turned obese when they become teens received less support from their moms. In fact, it was found out that obese teens had a more hostile relationship with mothers.

Low-income, less educated, African-American and Hispanic mothers evaluated in the study resulted in being more likely to have later bedtimes for their children. However, researchers are aware of the different reasons that might intervene in night hours.

Researchers suggest that there should be, if possible, a consistent bedtime routine in line with mom’s work scheduled or duties. Such ideal bedtime routine should be implemented even with newborns.

Overweight and obesity among kids and teenagers is a current major problem in the US. Statistics released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that there is about a 17 percent of children and teens presenting overweight or obesity problems in the country.

Early Bedtimes are Favorable on Social and Emotional Development

Further on, researchers argued that early bedtimes might positively influence the social and emotional development of preschoolers. A proper brain development was also observed in kids who had early bedtime habits.

Although bedtime is not equivalent to how much sleep children get, scientists consider that the earlier children get to bed, the more likely they are to get extra sleep during the night.

Researchers referred to the difference an hour can make in children global development. They pointed out that the more sleep preschoolers can get, it can lead to better outcomes for future adults.

Source: Journal Pediatrics