Early Bedtimes in Preschool Could Reduce Risk of Obesity

Preschool age boy sleeping at bedtimePreschool bedtimes before 8 p.m. could significantly reduce a child’s risk of adolescent obesity, according to a new study published in The Journal of Pediatrics. Previous research shows a connection between obesity and reduced sleep times, but this study is the first to establish a link between late bedtimes and obesity risk a decade after preschool. The National Sleep Foundation recommends preschoolers ages 3-5 should get 10-13 hours of sleep each day.

Studying the Health Effects of an Early Bedtime

The study gathered data on 977 children who participated in the Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development. The study followed children born at 10 different sites in 1991.

Between 1995 and 1996, when children were at an average age of 4.7 years, caregivers reported their children’s typical bedtime. About a quarter of participants were in bed by 8 p.m., half had bedtimes between 8 and 9 p.m., and a quarter went to bed after 9 p.m.

When participants were about 15 years old, researchers gathered data on their height and weight. Those with the earliest bedtimes had the lowest rate of obesity, at 10%. Children who went to bed between 8 and 9 p.m. had obesity rates of 16%, while children with bedtimes after 9 p.m. had the highest obesity rate of 23%.

How Does Sleep Affect Weight?

The study did not explore why or how bedtimes might affect adolescent weight. Its authors suggest earlier bedtimes may correlate with more sleep. Young children often rise early, so going to bed earlier may be the best way for them to get enough sleep.

A handful of recent studies have found sleep deprivation can lead to obesity. For example, a 2006 study of more than 60,000 healthy women who were not obese found that women who slept five hours or less per night had a 15% greater risk of obesity. People who slept for short periods of time also had a 30% higher risk of gaining 30 or more pounds over the 16 years of the study.


  1. Anderson, S. E., PhD, Andridge, R., PhD, & Whitaker, R. C., MD, MPH. (2016). Bedtime in preschool-aged children and risk for adolescent obesity. The Journal of Pediatrics. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jpeds.2016.06.005
  2. National Sleep Foundation recommends new sleep times. (2015, February 2). Retrieved from https://sleepfoundation.org/media-center/press-release/national-sleep-foundation-recommends-new-sleep-times
  3. Patel, S. R., Malhotra, A., White, D. P., Gottlieb, D. J., & Hu, F. B. (2006). Association between reduced sleep and weight gain in women. American Journal of Epidemiology, 164(10), 947-954. doi:10.1093/aje/kwj280
  4. Preschoolers with early bedtime routines less likely to become obese teenagers. (2016, July 14). Retrieved from http://www.news-medical.net/news/20160714/Preschoolers-with-early-bedtime-routines-less-likely-to-become-obese-teenagers.aspx

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  • Mitch


    July 20th, 2016 at 1:57 PM

    My friends always looked at my wife and I like we were nuts when we stressed just how important a scheduled bedtime was to our kids when they were growing up. But hey we have really good kids and i think that a big part of that was that we always made going to bed early and being on a schedule very important, and it was just something that they got used to and even if we would let them stay up late for a special occasion most of the time they would want to go to bed early anyway. It worked great for us because we don’t have time together during the day but having the kids to bed at a decent time kind of gives us that alone time in the evening.

  • Wyatt


    July 21st, 2016 at 9:22 AM

    Kids who don’t have any kind of schedule are usually just going form one place to the next, with the parents having very little regard for how this could be affecting them developmentally as well as physically and emotionally. We should at least take a little time as parents to consider that there are other lives in our hands now.

  • tamela


    July 21st, 2016 at 1:55 PM

    Witnessing the parents have healthy eating habits can also reduce obesity risk

  • jenn


    July 25th, 2016 at 2:48 PM

    There are likely a number of problems that early bedtimes could help solve with young children.
    You think?

  • Mason


    July 26th, 2016 at 10:27 AM

    Even though we might not know every single benefit I do know that there is never going to be anything wrong that is found by having a scheduled bedtime that your young children adhere to. I think that there are better rested and well behaved when they get enough sleep at night. So in addition to the things that we expect them to be then they are getting the added bonus of just being a healthier child overall.

  • stephanie


    July 27th, 2016 at 2:06 PM

    I seriously have friends who have never established any kid of routine or bedtime for their children and those are the worst kids I have ever seen. It isn’t the kids fault because this is something that the parents should have done a long time ago and not it is like they have gone so long without doing it that it feels like it is too late to go back and establish those boundaries now.
    They definitely make me see thee sense in setting those boundaries early when I have my own children.

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