It’s never too early to get kids into good sleep habits, and those habits might even protect against obesity later in life, a recent U.S. study suggests.
Preschoolers who were in bed by 8 p.m. were half as likely to be obese 10 years later as their peers who were still up after 9 p.m., found researchers from Ohio State University in Columbus.
Excess weight in children has become a major health problem in the North America. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 17 percent of U.S. children and adolescents - nearly 13 million kids -are obese.
The researchers used data on 977 children who were born in 1991 and who were tracked every year until they were 15.
When the children were 4 years old, on average, their mothers reported their usual weekday bedtimes.
Half the kids had bedtimes after 8 p.m. but before 9 p.m., one quarter went to bed at 8 p.m. or earlier, and another quarter went to bed after 9 p.m.
Going to bed before 8 p.m. most protective
When the researchers looked at the kids’ weights at age 15, they found that preschoolers who went to bed before 8 p.m. were least likely to be obese as teens. The risk of obesity was greater for the kids who went to bed between 8 and 9 p.m., and greatest for those who stayed up past 9 p.m. when they were little.
The rates of adolescent obesity were 10 percent, 16 percent, and 23 percent, respectively, in the three groups.
The researchers factored in other possible influences on obesity risk, including socioeconomic status and mothers’ obesity.
Not all households have the luxury of putting their kids to bed early, the researchers acknowledged. If parents come home late from their jobs, it can be challenging to have a regular routine.
The study doesn’t prove cause and effect, but does find a relationship between amount of sleep and body weight.
Also, keep in mind that obesity runs in families, so if parents are obese, their children are at a higher risk of becoming obese.
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