The Case for an Earlier Bedtime
With Daylight Savings Time ending last weekend, you might be struggling to get your child’s biological clock sorted out, not to mention that the whole family’s sleep, energy—and mood—could be a bit “off” this week.
Regardless of the time change, parents know all too well the struggle that is getting their children to bed early, or even on-time. There seems to be a never-ending list of reasons why they need to stay up “just a little longer” – whether it’s to watch another episode of their favorite TV show, finish some last-minute homework, or surf the web on their tablets. But recent research may help to give parents more motivation to set an earlier bedtime for their kids, besides having to drag them out from under the covers for school in the morning.
It’s no secret that shorter sleeping schedules may contribute to weight gain and obesity in children, experts say. However, a new study suggests that kids who don’t get enough sleep may also face a higher risk of being obese later in life as well. In an interview with CNN.com, Sarah Anderson, Ph.D. and author of the study, noted that this research confirms the idea that many parents already know, that “young children benefit from having a regular bedtime and bedtime routine.”
The result of the study, published in the Journal of Pediatrics, was the byproduct of analyzing data on 977 kids from pre-school age to adolescence. Researchers tracked their bedtimes when they were approximately 4.5 years old and then their weight, height, and BMI at age 15.
The findings showed that 23 percent of children who had late bedtimes (after 9 p.m.) grew to be obese teenagers, while only 10 percent of kids who hit the hay around 8 p.m. or earlier were obese. Dr. Anderson explained to CNN.com that not getting enough sleep can cause changes in hormones, making it more difficult for children to control their appetites, as well as possibly slowing down their metabolisms. And, staying up late to watch the tube could expose them to junk food commercials, which only enhance those cravings for unhealthy, fattening foods.
Tips for Getting the Kids Off to Bed
A little bit of structure and routine can help your children immensely when it comes to getting a good night’s rest. Follow these tips below to help them sleep soundly and wake up refreshed:
Develop a solid routine.
Having a structured night and bedtime can help kids fall asleep on-time. It’s also a good idea to make this routine a pleasant one by reading a bedtime story, playing a short game, or just talking to the little ones to help them relax.
Limit the use of electronic devices.
This is especially important around bedtime. Also, tell your kids not to bring their devices into their bedrooms, which could affect their overall sleep quality.
Make time during the day for exercise.
According to the CDC, children should get about an hour of physical exercise each day, which can help them to sleep more soundly through the night. While this might sound like a lot, any type of activity counts for those 60 minutes (even running around the schoolyard or walking to school) as long as your child incorporates a variety of different exercises to get them moving.
– By Sara Kildunne