Can An Early Bedtime Keep Kids from Becoming Obese?

posted: 09/12/16
by: Katherine Sosnoff
Boy afraid to sleep

Ah, sleep. Is there anything parents talk or think more about? While we know the numerous benefits of getting enough sleep (a non-cranky toddler ranking high on that list for me), almost everyone will give you different information on how to get there, from early bedtimes to later ones; short naps to long stretches, with all the crazy blackout curtains and white noise machines in between.

I know many parents swear a later bedtime will help their kid sleep in a little later the next day (and if you've ever been awoken at 5:45am by an energetic toddler, you know that those extra minutes in the morning are precious), but that's never worked for us and most experts agree that a later bedtime wont actually translate to a later wake time. In fact, many say that a late bedtime and overtiredness contribute to sleep problems like night wakings and early wakings. In addition, a recent study from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development also shows lasting health benefits from an early bedtime for kids.

In a study of 977 children from toddler-age to adolescence,tracking bedtimes as they correlated to obesity in the teen years, only 10% of the children who consistently went to bed at 8pm or earlier during preschool years ended up obese as teenagers. In contrast, 23% of kids who had a 9PM bedtime were obese as teenagers.

This correlation doesn't occur in a vaccum, however. While the earlier bedtime provides more opportunity for restorative sleep (and of course, the chance to pack in those extra z's), researchers also found that kids who stayed up later had more chances to snack and watch television, two activities that can contribute to obesity.

To make sure your kids are getting the proper amount of sleep, check out the American Academy of Sleep Medicine's updated sleep guidelines for your child:

  • Babies 4 months to 12 months should get 12 to 16 hours

  • Children 1 to 2 years old should get 11 to 14 hours

  • Children 3 to 5 years old should get 10 to 13 hours

  • Children 6 to 12 years old should get nine to 12 hours

  • Teenagers 13 to 18 years old should get eight to 10 hours