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Children 'can avoid getting fat when older' if put to bed at same time each night

The i logo The i 09/12/2018 Jeff Farrell

a person lying on a bed © Provided by Johnston Publishing Ltd Parents who put their children to bed at the same time each night are helping them avoid getting fat when older, a study suggests.

Researchers also believe that kids who get regular sleep have better physical and mental health in their teenage years, and learn better.

But despite the evidence, just one in three youngsters aged between five and nine were put down for the night at the recommended times.

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The finding in the study, at Penn State University in the US, adds to the growing proof that a lack of sleep is fuelling childhood obesity.

Video: A sleep expert explains what happens to your body and brain if you don't get sleep (Business Insider)

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Obesity

Study co-author Professor Orfeu Buxton said: "Parenting practices in childhood affect physical health and BMI in the teenage years.

(Representative image) © Getty (Representative image) "Developing a proper routine in childhood is crucial for the future health of the child.

"We think sleep affects physical and mental health, and the ability to learn."

The study was based on an analysis of more than 2,000 five-year-olds who were placed into groups depending on their sleep routines and followed for 10 years.

Just one in three consistently adhered to age-appropriate bedtimes between the age of five and nine.

Those who had no such routine had shorter self-reported sleep duration and higher body mass index (BMI) at 15 compared to those who did.

Sleep factors

(Representative image) © Getty (Representative image) The study, published in the journal Sleep, supports existing paediatric recommendations that regular bedtimes are important for children's health.

These should be determined by various factors such as when the child has to wake up to get ready for school and how long the journey is.

Prof Buxton said school start times aren't determined by parents - but bedtime routines are.

He said: "Giving children the time frame to get the appropriate amount of sleep is paramount."

It should provide enough of a "window" to get an appropriate amount of sleep - even if the child doesn't nod off right away, he said.

Lead author Soomi Lee, now assistant professor of ageing studies at the University of South Florida, said the study underlines the importance of continuity in sleep behaviours.

Those who had the best bedtime routines during childhood also had sufficient sleep duration in adolescence.

On the other hand those with the worst did not get enough.

Her team analysed data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, a national cohort from 20 US cities with 2,196 subjects.

Gallery: 15 Foods That Will Put You to Sleep (and Keep You There!) (Popsugar)


Education

Bedtime and sleep routines were assessed using mothers' reports on their children when they were five and nine years old.

At 15, the participants themselves reported their height and weight which were used to calculate BMI.

Prof Lee said the study also highlights the importance of educating parents in bedtime parenting, especially for those in low-income households.

Just one in three youngsters aged between five and nine were put down for the night at the recommended times © Getty Just one in three youngsters aged between five and nine were put down for the night at the recommended times She said: "In our sample that includes a large proportion of low-income, low-education, and ethnic minority households, only less than one third of children had age-appropriate bedtime routines at age five and nine.

"This raises a concern about development and health of children in disadvantaged households.

"Future family interventions may need to include parental educations about sleep health, particularly focusing on parents with low income and low education."

Additionally, future studies should focus on whether childhood sleep behaviour interventions promote healthier sleep and weight in later life course stages, she said.

Sleep.org has outlined the recommended amount of sleep for each age group.

These are:

Newborns (up to three months): 14 to 17 hours Infants (four to 11 months): 12 to 15 hours Toddlers (one to two): 11 to 14 hours Preschoolers (three to five): 10 to 13 hours School-age (six to 13): 9 to 11 hours Tweens and Teens (14 to 17): 8 to 10 hours

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