It’s important to get at least 7-9 hours of sleep each night as it improves quality of life and our moods.
Now according to a new study, it’s not only the amount of shut eye we get, but when we decide it’s time to snooze that could have an impact on our lives.
The study looked at the links between obesity and sleep in kids which found that those who have a later bedtime could be at risk.
Dr Claude Marcus, a professor of pediatrics at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden and an author of the study, found that parents should focus on maintaining a regular routine when it comes to scheduling bed times.
The research, which was part of a wider study on obesity, focused on 107 children with 64 of the children having a parent who classified as overweight or obese.
It monitored each child’s weight, height and waist circumference from ages one to six; with all of the children having similar measurements.
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Sleep was measured for seven consecutive days once a year for the length of the study by using a tracker worn on the child’s wrist.
The tracker’s found that children who habitually went to sleep late – defined by the researchers as past 9pm – had a wider and higher body mass index (BMI) by the end of the study.
Dr Claude said: “This late bedtime was one factor that really stood out. It was associated with increased weight.
“However, what we can see is [only] an association. If you put your kids to bed earlier, would it change anything? That’s something we don’t know.”
The study author went on to suggest that staying up beyond 9pm could be one sign of an overall lifestyle that puts kids at greater risk of being overweight, rather than their weight gain being directly connected to their bedtime.
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And of course, bedtimes could vary around the world, says Dr Claude, as kids in places like Spain and parts of Asia tend to stay up much later.
He added: “My personal hypothesis is that this is more of a marker of a more irregular life.”
In a linked commentary on the research, Dr. Nicole Glaser and Dr. Dennis Styne, both pediatric endocrinologists at UC Davis Health in Sacramento, California, said it was possible that obesity and inadequate sleep might be due to other influences, like excess screen time or inadequate exercise.
But it was added that it was possible there could be a physical link because some of the brain regions involved in regulating sleep and wake cycles also manage eating behaviour.
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Meanwhile, previous research has found that a shorter sleep duration is linked to an increased risk of obesity in childhood.
But the study from Dr Claude’s team found that no matter how long a child slept, going to be after 9pm was associated with an increased risk of obesity and a higher BMI.
In adults, irregular sleep has been associated with a greater risk of obesity, with some suggestion that people who sleep less eat more.
Dr Claude said: “The causality is difficult to establish. It could also be an effect of stress, rather than sleep. It's also the same for kids with different socioeconomic scores, we know that it's associated with obesity but it's very difficult to identify the differences in their way of living.”
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