Findings of a new study have revealed another reason why parents should send their preschoolers off to bed early. Researchers from the Ohio State University College of Public Health have found that children who sleep early have lesser chances of growing up as obese teens compared with their peers who sleep late at night.
By comparing preschoolers who sleep at 8 p.m. or earlier and kids of the same age with later bedtimes, the researchers found evidence suggesting that sleeping an hour later doubles the risk of young children to become obese teens.
Epidemiology associate professor Sarah Anderson and colleagues looked at the data of almost 1,000 children. At age 4, the participants were divided into three groups, those who slept by 8 p.m. or earlier., those who slept between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m., and those who have later bedtimes.
The researchers found that by the time the kids were about 15 years old, only 10 percent of the kids with the earliest bedtimes were obese. In those who slept between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m., 16 percent became obese teens, while 23 percent of those who slept after 9 p.m. had obesity problems.
The researchers said that the findings highlight the importance of having a bedtime routine, something that families can do to reduce their child's risk for weight problems later in life.
Excess weight among kids is a major health problem that the U.S. currently faces. Figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that about 17 percent of children and adolescents in the country are obese.
"Preschool-aged children with early weekday bedtimes were one-half as likely as children with late bedtimes to be obese as adolescents. Bedtimes are a modifiable routine that may help to prevent obesity," the researchers wrote in their study, which was published in The Journal of Pediatrics on July 14.
The researchers also observed that the kids who turned obese tend to have mothers whose interactions with them were less supportive and more hostile and that later bedtimes tend to be more prevalent among nonwhite children in lower income households with less educated mothers.
Besides being linked to the likelihood of youngsters to become obese later in life, the researchers said that earlier bedtimes can also benefit the social and emotional development, as well as the brain development of the children.