• 1 in 5 U.S school-age children and teens aged 6-19 are obese
  • Causes: Lack of physical activity, unhealthy eating habits & certain medical conditions
  • Bedtime past 9 p.m. could increase a child’s risk of obesity

Childhood obesity is on the rise. More than 340 million children and adolescents aged 5-19 are overweight or obese globally. The CDC reported that 1 in 5 school-age children and teens aged 6-19 in the U.S are obese. The most common causes of childhood obesity include lack of physical activity, unhealthy eating habits, and certain medical conditions. But, a new study suggested that going to bed at a particular time might increase childhood obesity.

The researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden conveyed that parents should focus on maintaining a regular routine for meals as well as bedtimes.

The study included 107 children in Sweden out of which 64 of them had a parent who classified as overweight or obese. Their weight, height and waist circumference were monitored from ages 1-6. They all had similar measurements at the beginning of the study. Their sleep was also tracked using a wearable device.

The findings of the study revealed that children who had the habit of sleeping late, specifically past 9 p.m., had a wider waist circumference and a higher BMI by the end of the study.

"This late bedtime was one factor that really stood out. It was associated with increased weight," CNN Health quoted the study’s lead author Dr. Claude Marcus, a professor of pediatrics. "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," he added.

The authors opined that staying up after 9 p.m could be a sign of overall lifestyle that increases a child’s risk of being overweight/obese. They also noted that children’s bedtimes varied widely around the world -- with kids in some parts of Asia and Spain habitually stayed up much later than 9 p.m.

They highlight the fact that obesity and inadequate sleep might be due to other influences including inadequate physical activity, excess screen time or less vigilance about healthy habits.

The only limitation of the study was that it included a very small group of children. However, they were still able to objectively measure sleep characteristics via wearable devices rather than relying on the information from children and their parents which can often be unreliable.

Bedtime influences childhood obesity StockSnap, Pixabay