Thanks, Science! Researchers Confirm Earlier Bedtimes are Healthier for Toddlers

Here's why putting your toddler to bed at 8 p.m. could benefit his health in a decade.
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You know when you reach that point in the day when you're just so ready to put your toddler to bed? Well, it turns out an earlier bedtime may benefit both you and your child. According to a new study published in the Journal of Pediatrics, calling it a day before you've had enough of the tantrums and "do it myselfs" can make kids less likely to be overweight as teens.

"Earlier bedtimes were protective against obesity," Sarah Anderson, associate professor of epidemiology at Ohio State University told Today.com, adding, "Preschool-age children whose bedtimes are at 8 or before were half as likely to be obese 10 years later."

That's right: researchers were actually able to pinpoint an exact, ideal time we should be putting our tots to bed. Thank you, science!

So how did they determine that toddlers "expire" at 8 o'clock? Researchers looked at 977 kids, age 4-1/2, in the Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development. Those who went to bed at 8:00 were less likely to be obese at age 15. Specifically, researchers found just 10 percent of kids who went to bed at 8:00 p.m. or earlier were obese, while 16 percent of children whose bedtime was between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. were obese. Most shockingly, 23 percent of kids who went to bed at 9 p.m. or later were obese.

It's worth noting that how long children slept each night was not measured; however, it's believed an earlier bedtime goes hand-in-hand with getting more sleep, and having better overall habits. 

The amount of sleep your child needs depends a lot of her age. This video will answer any questions you may have about the amount of shut-eye your baby, toddler or big kid needs.

Personally, I'd have to agree. When I am able to get my toddler to bed by 8:00, it typically means I am more in control of our schedule. We've had dinner at a reasonable time (and not in the car in transit), we've made time for bath and stories, and the day is coming to an end in a civilized, non-rushed manner.

On the flip-side, when bedtime is later, I'm usually racing against the clock to get my kids fed (whatever's around), bathed, and under the covers. And I can definitely see how a more relaxed, structured, and consistent evening routine helps children develop better habits, from eating to sleeping.

Indeed, Dr. Sangeeta Chakravorty, director of the Pediatric Sleep Program of Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC told Today.com, "Sleep and appetite and nutrition are very closely linked neurologically speaking because they are both biological drives. So disruption in either can affect the other."

It's worth pointing out putting kids to be earlier won't help them lose weight. But the takeaway is that establishing healthy bedtime routines early, even from infancy, can have lasting beneficial effects on kids. And leave time for mom to have a glass of wine!

Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Follow her on Twitter (@Spitupnsuburbs), where she chronicles her love of exercising and drinking coffee, but never simultaneously.

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