Bedtime….an important word for parents and for children. A recent study in Pediatrics just reinforces how important bedtimes for children may be. The research shows that preschool children who had an earlier bedtime were less likely to become obese in their teenage years.
The study involved nearly 1,000 children who were born in 1991 and whose parents recorded their bedtimes when they were 4.5 years old. The researchers then looked at the growth data (height/weight) for these children when they were 15 years of age.
Interestingly, the pre-school children who were in bed by 8:00 p.m. had half the risk of becoming obese as a teenager compared to those children who went to bed after 9 pm. Specifically, of the children who went to bed by 8 pm, only 10 percent were obese as teens, while 16 percent of those who went to bed between 8 and 9 pm developed obesity, and 23 percent of those children who had bedtimes after 9 pm developed teenage obesity.
While there has been much research surrounding sleep and obesity (as well as behavior), this study provides even more evidence to the possible “protective effect” of early bedtime and bedtime routines for young children. If getting to bed on time and earlier can in some way help stem the obesity tide, it would seem like an easy recommendation for many parents to follow.
As a mother I was always a “fan” of schedules and bedtimes…and actually putting your child to bed at night is such a wonderful time of day. The routine of a bath, snuggles, some books ( with wishes for just one more) and more hugs and kisses is such a wonderful memory I have of my own 3 boys. It just seemed that everyone was happier (and I guess healthier) when we had early bedtimes. I remember I had a friend who always had her 3 young children fed, bathed and in bed by 7:00 p.m. every night..and in those pre cell phone days we did not dare call her house after that time!!
I also think bedtime routines are important for younger children year round. While it is more difficult to have regular bedtimes for older children during the summer months, children under elementary school age (and maybe even older) really do benefit from continuing on the same bedtime schedule during the summer months. I think if you told your middle school or teenager this “rule” there might be mutiny….but I know as well as a working parent, it is much easier to have a routine even when the kids are out of school…they would totally disagree!
I am excited about this study and using it as another resource when discussing sleep habits and bedtime routines with my patients.