Earlier Beddy-Bye for Toddlers May Lessen Childhood Obesity Risk

Earlier Beddy-Bye for Toddlers May Lessen Childhood Obesity Risk

Research shows that children of the toddler age who go to sleep before 8 p.m. have a decreased risk of obesity in adolescence. Public domain image by Alessandro Zangrilli.

Research shows that children of the toddler age who go to sleep before 8 p.m. have a decreased risk of obesity in adolescence. Public domain image by Alessandro Zangrilli.

Going to bed earlier has always had its benefits for anyone at any age. But a new study shows that kids at the toddler and preschool age who are tucked in at an earlier time have a lesser risk of developing childhood obesity, and obesity throughout their teen and adult years.

While later meals were previously believed to be a cause of childhood obesity (click here for the childsobesity.com article on this previous topic), it has now been studied that eating later in the day does not impact a child’s body clock (it was believed that meals after 8 p.m. could).

But what researchers have found is in fact that bedtimes before 9 p.m. is best for children to maintain their weight, which in essence likely means that kids should eat their meals accordingly in terms of their time, to be sure to be in bed at this time.

The Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development asserts that kids of preschool age who hit the hay by 8 p.m. cut their risk of adolescent obesity, versus children of the same age who are still up after 9 p.m.

“Obesity” means that a person’s body mass index (BMI) is greater than or equal to the 95th percentile.

The study involved kids born specifically in 1991, and their bedtime analyses began in approximately 1995 at the age of four-and-a-half. In the study, about one-quarter of these kids went to bed before 8 p.m. and earlier, one-half between the hours of 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. and one-quarter after 9 p.m. When these children turned 15, those leading the study measured their heights and weights. Of those involved in the study, by the time they reached that age, 10 percent of the group was obese, and it was this segment that was in bed by 8 p.m. But, with kids who remained up after 9 p.m., as well as up until this time, these kids ranked nearly one-quarter of their group, or 23 percent who fought obesity.

The demographics of this study reflected that socioeconomics and ethnic backgrounds also influenced bedtimes. Those parents considered “less educated” often allowed their children to stay up later. Kids of ethnic backgrounds classified as “minority” also often permitted their toddlers to stay up later than 8 p.m. People of lower income echelons, no matter their ethnic background and education, also tended to allow their children to stay up later.

Overall, what researchers concluded was that those in the preschool age were likely to be obese as teens by 50 percent.

What those leading the study suggest is an earlier bedtime on a daily basis for children of the preschool age, no later than 8 p.m. Shorter sleep and poor sleep are being correlated to the childhood obesity crisis through this study. Earlier bedtime, however, does not mean that children who are in bed by this hour will have an easier time losing weight if they are classified as “overweight” or “obese.”

How can parents set up routines that can help their toddlers and preschoolers head to bed earlier? Exercise is one factor that can not only help kids muscle development and keep their weight within healthy limits, exercise helps one’s body develop proper sleep rhythms. The body isn’t intended to be sedentary, and if children aren’t enjoying exercise, that can also encourage wakefulness, even at late hours. Developing other routines to relax children at night, such as a bath or shower, and a story before bed, beginning about an hour before it’s time to actually go to sleep, can also help them to drift off into slumber at a decent hour.

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