There are many adages which advocate getting to bed early and getting a good night’s sleep. Right now, two come to mind. An old proverb says, “The early bird catches the worm;” while Benjamin Franklin famously rhymed, “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”
And, sure, health research continues to tell us that these things are true. We should get to bed as early as possible, get as much sleep as necessary, and get up as early as possible (after adhering to the other two aspects, of course).
However, a new study says that this might also be true for children as young as preschool age, though not for reasons you might think. According to this new study, earlier bedtimes not only contributed to happier preschoolers but might also contribute to preventing these children from developing obesity later in life.
Ohio State University associate professor of epidemiology says, “Early bedtimes were protective against obesity.” Published in the Journal of Pediatrics, the study author goes on to say, “Preschool-age children whose bedtimes are at 8 or before were half as likely to be obese 10 years later.”
Obviously, this appears a somewhat abstract relationship so the team had to look closer. They looked at the existing data of 977 children, taken during the Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development, which is a longitudinal study on child care and child development.
More specifically, the research team wanted to investigate if bedtime had an impact on health. They were able to observe at what time parent’s put their four-and-a-half-year-old preschoolers to bed (but there was no data, in fact, on what time the children got out of bed). The team also examined the data collected on BMI for the same children at the age of 15, compared against bedtimes. Sure enough, they found this odd correlation.
Of course, for now researchers don’t really understand why there seems to be this relationship; only that there is one. But the evidence is pretty clear. For example, they found the association between earlier bedtimes and healthier weight significantly emerged at the age of 15. The study said that only about 10 percent of children put to bed by 8 pm experienced obesity. Those who went to bed between 8 and 9 pm were 16 percent more likely to be obese while those who went to bed, consistently, after 9 pm were 23 percent more likely.