Sleep is important for growing kids. And, another study just gave more reason why. Toddlers who were asleep by 8 p.m. were less likely to be obese in their teen years, according to the research published in the Journal of Pediatrics.
“Earlier bedtimes were protective against obesity,” Sarah Anderson, lead author and associate professor of epidemiology at Ohio State University told Today.com, adding, “Preschool-age children whose bedtimes are at 8 or before were half as likely to be obese 10 years later.”
The study involved gathering data from close to 1,000 kids when they were around 4 and a half years old and then again when they were around 15 years old. Anderson and her team found that, at age 15, only one in 10 kids were obese in the children who slept at 8 p.m. or earlier. However, 16 percent of the kids who slept anywhere from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. were obese. And even worse, 23 percent of kids who slept past 9 p.m. were obese in their teens.
“For parents, this reinforces the importance of establishing a bedtime routine,” says Anderson. “It’s something concrete that families can do to lower their child’s risk and it’s also likely to have positive benefits on behavior and on social, emotional and cognitive development.”
Anderson adds that tucking a child in bed doesn’t guarantee that she'll be able to fall asleep right away, but establishing a consistent bedtime routine makes it more likely. Here are some tips on how to do just that:
1. Start the routine early at night. Previous research shows that majority of young kids are biologically pre-programmed to be ready to fall asleep well before 9 p.m. And, according to sleep recommendations from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, children 3 to 5 years of age should sleep 10 to 13 hours a day so make sure her waking time still fits that number of hours (click here to see full recommendations across all ages). 2. Choose the right activities. Establish a routine with activities that will calm your toddler and make it easier for him to get into bed. Some activities you can include could be: brushing his teeth, reading a bedtime story, having a quiet chat and saying goodnight. One tip: “Keep things very basic and simple,” says pediatrician Hannah Chow, MD, of the Loyola University Chicago School of Medicine.
3. Work as a team. Make sure everyone in the house knows that you’re on a mission to get your child to sleep earlier. Discuss and agree upon a routine with your partner and help each other carry it out consistently. Get your child involved too, by telling her about the new before-bed activities. You can even create a picture chart to help her stick to it.
4. Be consistent. They key to getting a routine to stick and actually work is the follow through. Even on weekends and during school breaks, try to stick to the schedule. Kids thrive on routines and soon enough, the his pre-bed activites will come as second nature to him.