A good night’s sleep is extremely important for children.
Not enough sleep can cause daytime sleepiness, moodiness and an inability to concentrate – all of which are detrimental to a child’s learning and social development. It’s recommended that toddlers get between 12 – 14 hours sleep each day / night and primary school aged children get 9 to 10 hours sleep each night. Many kids, however, do not get this much sleep. Beyond just affecting learning and social outcomes, research has found an association between later bedtimes in childhood and risk of obesity in adolescence.
A study that’s been following a group of children since 1991 has plotted the association between bedtime and obesity over time. At five years of age, a quarter of the children tracked went to bed before 8pm, half went to bed between 8pm and 9pm and the final quarter typically stayed up beyond 9pm. When these participants were followed up years later, at age 17, the rates of obesity in each group of bedtimes were 10%, 16% and 23% respectively. So those who regularly went to bed after 9pm had more than double the risk of obesity compared to those who went to bed before 8pm.
This study highlights yet another reason why it’s so important for kids to get a good night’s sleep. The study didn’t measure when children actually fell asleep, but rather when they went to bed, but it’s likely that those who went to bed earlier commenced the falling asleep process earlier. If you have trouble getting your kids to bed, talk to a health professional for advice or visit the Better Health Channel where there are good, evidence-based tips on sleep habits in childhood.
Reference: Anderson, S et al. Bedtime in preschool- aged children and risk for adolescent obesity. The Journal of Pediatrics. Epub online July 5, 2016. doi: 10.1016/j.peds.2016.06.005.