OSU Researchers Study Bedtime and Obesity in Children

Bedtimes after 9 p.m. appeared to double the likelihood of obesity later in life, according to a study from The Ohio State University College of Public Health. Preschoolers who are regularly tucked into bed by 8 p.m. are far less likely to become obese teenagers than young children who go to sleep later in the evening, new research has found.

Excess weight in children is a major health concern in the United States. Approximately 17 percent – 12.7 million – of children and adolescents are obese, according to the latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Obesity can set kids up for a lifelong struggle with weight and health complications that can accompany it, including diabetes and heart disease.

New research, which appears in the The Journal of Pediatrics, used data from 977 children who were part of the Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development. That project followed healthy babies born at 10 U.S. sites in 1991.

Researchers divided preschool bedtimes into three categories: 8 p.m. or earlier, between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m., and after 9 p.m. The children were about 4 ½ years old when their mothers reported their typical weekday bedtime.

The researchers linked preschoolers’ bedtimes to obesity when the kids were teens, at an average age of 15.

They found a striking difference: Only 1 in 10 of the children with the earliest bedtimes were obese teens, compared to 16 percent of children with mid-range bedtimes and 23 percent of those who went to bed latest. Half the kids in the study fell into the middle category. A quarter had early bedtimes and another quarter went to bed late.