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Study Links Obesity To Late Bed Times In Children

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- What you eat and how much you exercise certainly plays a role in how much you weigh, but there's new evidence that your bedtime may play a big role as well -- especially if you are a child.

Sleep experts are calling the newly released study "compelling and comprehensive."

It's a study conducted in the United Kingdom following nearly 11,000 children from age 3 to 11. Researchers asked parents to record their children's bed times and meal times. They found that toddlers with irregular bedtimes nearly doubled their risk of obesity by the time they were 11.

Dr. Con Iber is the medical director Fairview Sleep Centers.

"Essentially it results in a reduction of your sleep time if you go to bed at a different times," he said. "Well why would that be? It's because we have sleep clock and each one of us is made a little differently."

He says when our sleep is thrown off, so is everything else. It's well-documented that sleep deprivation contributes to poor eating habits.

"We as a culture have to pay attention to sleep, otherwise we are harmed in some way. We are harmed in terms of gaining weight with the complications related to that, including developing high blood pressure and diabetes," Dr. Iber said.

This latest study linking irregular bedtimes to obesity in children provides more evidence that getting enough sleep is vital. So what's making it hard for parents to get their children to go to bed?  One issue is restlessness due to caffeinated drinks.

"Anything beyond three caffeinated beverages in a day and anything in the afternoon is not good because it will delay sleep time," Dr. Iber said.

Doctors are also worried about time spent staring at screens of computers, TVs and phones.

"Light is an enemy of sleep so if you are using a screen or television before bedtime, you will probably delay your sleep time," he said.

Dr. Iber reminds us that this is a preventable health risk.

"We as parents have a lot to play in this. What we do in our homes in terms of having regular schedules ourselves, sets a pattern for the kids," he said.

The recommended number of hours of sleep depends on age. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends at least 10 hours of sleep for children 3 to 5 years old, at least nine hours a night for kids 6-12, and at least eight hours for teenagers 13-18.

Additional Studies:
Short Sleep Duration in Infancy and Risk of Childhood Overweight
Childhood Sleep Time and Long-Term Risk for Obesity

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