Early Bedtime for Toddlers Linked to Lower Obesity Risk (Video)

Can an early bedtime improve your child’s long-term health? For preschool children, there is a connection between bedtime hour and obesity, according to a new study. Simply put: Preschool children with earlier bedtimes have a lower risk for adolescent obesity, research shows.

The study was recently published in the Journal of Pediatrics, a medical publication.

Researchers studied data from nearly 1,000 kids who participated in the Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development research project. The data — collected from 10 different locations throughout the U.S. — involved healthy children born in 1991.

In 1995 and 1996, when those kids were pre-schoolers, their mothers provided information about the typical bedtime hour for each child during weekdays. Then 10 years later, height and weight data were collected for those same children in order to calculate body-mass-index (BMI) — a standard measurement for calculating obesity.

The results:

  • Early bedtimes: About 25 percent of the preschoolers in the study had an early bedtime of 8 p.m. or earlier. Only 10 percent from that group were obese as teenagers.
  • Mid-range bedtimes: One half of the study pool, had a bedtime between 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. From that group, the obesity rate was 16 percent.
  • Late bedtimes: Young children in the remaining 25 percent of the study pool had a late bedtime of 9 p.m. or later. In that group, 23 percent were obese as teens.

“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 study reported.  “Poor sleep, especially short sleep duration, is one risk factor associated with increased risk for obesity.”

The results aren’t surprising, says Timothy Grant, M.D., medical director of Baptist Sleep Center at Sunset. Lack of sleep upsets the normal activities of two hormones that control our appetite, Dr. Grant says. Leptin is the hormone that sends the “stomach-is-full” message to the brain, and ghrelin is the hormone that sends out “eat-more” messages. But when you’re starved for sleep, those appetite-controlling hormones are thrown off balance,

(Watch the video below to learn more about sleep and weight gain from Timothy Grant, M.D., medical director of Baptist Sleep Center at Sunset. Dr. Grant spoke at a Community Health event.)

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