Regular bedtimes and sufficient sleep for children may lead to healthier teens

Having a regular, age-appropriate bedtime and getting sufficient sleep from early childhood may be important for healthy body weight in adolescence, according to researchers at Penn State.

The researchers identified groups of children by bedtime and sleep routines and tested longitudinal associations for each group with adolescent body mass index (BMI). 

The findings suggest that childhood bedtime and sleep routine groups predict adolescent sleep patterns and BMI.

In a national study, one-third of children consistently adhered to age-appropriate bedtimes for ages 5 through 9. Those who had no bedtime routine at age 9 had shorter self-reported sleep duration and higher BMI at age 15, when compared to those children with age-appropriate bedtimes (after adjusting for age 3 BMI).

Parenting practices in childhood affect physical health and BMI in the teenage years. Developing a proper routine in childhood is crucial for the future health of the child. Sleep affects physical and mental health, and the ability to learn.

Bedtimes should be determined by various factors, such as when the child has to wake up based on the time it takes for that child to get ready for school, and the time it takes to get to school, as well as the school start time. School start times aren’t determined by parents, but bedtimes and bedtime routines can be adjusted by parents.

Bedtime should provide enough of a “window” for the child to get an appropriate amount of sleep, even if the child doesn’t fall asleep right away..

Additionally, the study shows continuity in sleep behaviors, in that those who had most optimal bedtime and sleep routines during childhood also had sufficient sleep duration in adolescence, whereas those with sub optimal bedtime and sleep routines had insufficient sleep duration in adolescence.