Sleeping early and following a consistent bedtime routine can significantly help reduce children's risk of becoming overweight or obese, according to latest Australian research.
The researchers found that, beyond just "healthy sleep" of 10 hours a night for children, there was a major link between late bedtimes and unhealthy weight gain, according to a University of Queensland statement on Wednesday.
The study involved analyzing four years of data from more than 1,200 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children under a major indigenous longitudinal study, focusing on those aged five to eight years, the university said.
Children with consistently late bedtimes were found to be at increased risk of being overweight or obese compared to those who regularly went to bed earlier, university researcher Yaqoot Fatima said.
"Our study, which is applicable to non-Indigenous children as well, looked at about 7pm as an early bedtime, and after 9.30pm on weekdays and weekends as being late," Fatima said.
Compared with early sleepers, "children we might describe as 'night owls' were on average 1.5 - 2.5 kg heavier at follow up three years later", she said.
The study, published in medical journal Acta Paediatrica, "highlights the importance of parents looking beyond sleep duration and into the benefits of a consistent early bedtime", according to the university.
"Excessively focusing on sleep duration as the sole measure of healthy sleep would not be sufficient to achieve better health outcomes in children," Fatima said.
"It is important to share the information on the role of sleep timing with parents, carers and health service provides so that more can children benefit from regular and consistent bedtimes and healthy sleep."