If you’re concerned about your child’s weight, setting an earlier bedtime might help. A study out today in the journal Sleep found that adolescents who get to bed early stay slimmer and more physically active than their night-owl peers, even when both groups get the same amount of sleep.
University of South Australia researchers recorded the bedtimes and wake times of 2,200 children and teens, ages 9 to 16, and compared their weights and leisure activities (screen time, physical activity, and study time) over the course of four days. Adolescents who went to bed late and woke up late experienced 48 minutes more screen time and 27 minutes less physical activity than those who went to bed early and woke up early, and were nearly 1.5 more times likely to be obese. Night owls were also twice as likely to be physically inactive and roughly three times more likely to sit in front of the TV and computer or play video games for more hours than guidelines recommend.
Authors say that while participants who went to bed late and woke up late got about the same amount of sleep as the children who went to bed early and woke up early, mornings are more conducive to physical activity for young people than nights, when children are more likely to do more sedentary activities, such as watching TV.
A number of studies show a strong link between sleep duration and quality and overall health and wellbeing. And previous research suggests that children who sleep less are more likely to become overweight, and some research even shows that overweight children sleep less and have a poor quality of sleep. Also, less sleep equals more waking hours to eat, and may lead to fatigue and decreased physical activity.
Bottom line: While more research into obesity and sleep-wake patterns is needed, it’s no secret that childhood obesity is a global problem. A number of government initiatives are aimed at tackling the epidemic, but helping your child maintain a healthy weight starts at home, by encouraging healthy eating habits, exercise, less TV and tech time, and a good night’s sleep. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that children ages 3 to 5 get 11 to 13 hours of sleep, children 5 to 12 get 9-11 hours, and adolescents get 8.5 to 9.5 hours.