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Letting Children Stay Up Late Leads To Overweight Teenagers

Controlling obesity early is key to preventing it later in life.

Letting Children Stay Up Late Leads To Overweight Teenagers

[Photo: mbi/iStock]

Hey pre-schoolers! If you’re reading this after 8 p.m., then you’re headed for a miserable time as a teenager, because you’re going to get fat. New research out of the Ohio State University says that you should listen to your parents and go to bed early in order to avoid obesity when you get older.

Don’t like the idea of trying to sleep while it’s still light outside? Blame Sarah Anderson, the doctor behind the study. Anderson and her researchers looked at the data for pre-schoolers from the Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development. Of the 977 youngsters they analyzed, a quarter went to bed before 8 p.m., half between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. and the other quarter after 9 p.m. These bedtimes were then compared to the same kids’ weight and height when they reached 15 years.

The results showed that the later kids went to bed when they were at pre-school age, the more likely they were to be obese as teenagers. The number of obese kids for the three groups above was as follows: 10%, 16%, and 23%.

[Photo: Flickr user David Nortes Martínez]

Why is getting to bed early linked to kids getting obese? Anderson theorizes it's all to do with sleep, as many studies have documented a similar association with short sleep duration and obesity. And bedtimes are easier to control than wake times, especially if you establish a routine, which seems to be something that benefits children in general. By getting kids to bed early, they have the best chance to get sufficient sleep, even if they’re early risers.

Controlling obesity early is key to preventing it later in life. It’s a lot easier to stay thin than it is to get thin if you’ve been overweight your whole life. That’s why, says Anderson, it’s important to start early, and regular, sufficient sleep is one way to help children avoid getting overweight. So, kid, if you’re still reading this then a) well done, especially since you haven’t started school yet, and b) go to sleep, now.

"Numerous prospective studies have documented an association in children between short nighttime sleep duration and obesity," she writes in the report.

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