Study Published Finds that Later Bedtimes Lead to Greater Obesity Rates 

Esha Brar

      A new study conducted by researchers has found that there is a correlation between the bedtimes and rate of obesity increasing among children, especially those under the age of 6. Although researchers do not encourage parents to rush their preschoolers to sleep earlier, they are stressing on the fact that a lack of adequate sleep for children will lead them to have future medical issues, including obesity. Instead of forcing children to go to bed earlier, researchers such as Dr. Claude Marcus, a professor of pediatrics at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden encouraged parents to start to establish and maintain a regular routine regarding sleeping and eating meals and set them on a schedule that will allow for more beneficial health and lifestyles routines.

      The study, which was a smaller scale part of a larger study about obesity, consisted of 107 children in Sweden, 64 of which had a parent who was overweight or obese. The children’s weight, height, and weight circumference were measured, and the ages of the children varied from 1 to 6 years old. However, all of the children had pretty similar measurements when the study was first conducted. Their sleep patterns were tracked for 7 consecutive days once a year, and they were able to track their sleeping patterns through a tracker worn on the child’s wrist. The study found that those children who typically went to sleep later, past 9 PM were found to have a wider waist and higher BMI (body mass index). Dr. Marcus points out the fact that this established a mere association, but was not a proven fact, that those who went to bed earlier would have no risk of being obese or overweight. He also noted the fact that children all over the world might have different bedtimes, such as children in parts of Asia and Spain, who usually have later bedtimes. 

        Dr. Nicole Glaser and Dr. Dennis Styne, who are both pediatric endocrinologists at UC Davis Health in Sacramento, California, stated that it was also possible that the correlation between obesity and a lack of sleep could potentially be related to also influences and factors present in their lives, such as a greater use of electronics, lack of exercise, or bad health or lifestyles. They noted that there could also be physical factors since the brain is responsible for regulating sleep and wake cycles, and the expression of eating and fasting. They noted that there were many factors that connected sleep and body weight regulation, both processes maintained by the brain. 

        There were some limitations to the study, such as the number of children, and they found that the wrist tracker could potentially be unreliable, and are still trying to find another way to be able to objectively measure sleep characteristics. The study from Dr. Marcus found that less sleep was not necessarily related to obesity, but rather sleeping after 9 PM was more linked to the enhancement of risk of obesity. However, in adults, Marcus stated that irregular sleep and less sleep have been associated with a greater risk of obesity, and said that the differences could be due to the different lifestyles of children and adults. 

      In general, Marcus’s team notes that those who have obesity should pay more attention to their sleep problems, such it seems that irregular and bad sleeping patterns could increase the vulnerability of an individual to become obese and overweight.