Do you let your little ones stay up past 8 p.m.? You may want to rethink that practice, say researchers from The Ohio State University College of Public Health. Preschool-age children who go to bed late are at risk of becoming obese by their teenage years, says a new study.
The report, printed in The Journal of Pediatrics (2016; DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jpeds.2016.06.005), featured bedtime data on 977 children around 5 years of age, as reported by their mothers in 1991. The most common bedtimes were 8, 8:30 and 9 p.m.; however, the spectrum ranged from 6:45 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. Half of the children had bedtimes between 8 and 9 p.m.; 25% were in bed by 8 p.m.; and the remaining 25% went to bed later than 9 p.m. Children who were nonwhite, had less educated mothers and lived in lower-income homes tended to have later bedtimes.
Ten years after the initial assessment, researchers measured the participants’ height and weight, and used this information to categorize the children by body mass index. Ten percent of
those with a bedtime before 8 p.m. were classified as obese. The percentage rose to 16% for children tucked in between 8 and 9, and it more than doubled—to 23%—among those who were still up after 9 o’clock.
Parents’ work schedules and other time-related factors may contribute to late bedtimes, the authors proposed, although this study did not prove causality. Regardless of the reason, they urged parents to make every effort to establish earlier bedtimes for young children.