Lights out! Regular bedtimes could help to lessen kids’ obesity risk

A new study reveals that your kids’ bedtime routine may be more important than you’d originally thought.

Released by Ohio State University, the research suggests that family structure, including regular bedtimes, mealtimes and limited screen time are linked to better emotional health in preschoolers. This may help to lower the chances of obesity later.

Over the course of the study, researchers evaluated three household routines when children were 3 years old: regular bedtime, regular mealtime, and whether the children were limited to less than an hour of screen time per day. They also compared those to parents’ reports of the children’s self-regulation, in terms of their excitement and anger levels. Finally, they investigated how the routines and self-regulation worked together to impact obesity at age 11, defined by international criteria.

In the end, all three household routines were associated with better emotional self-regulation. Those children with greater emotional dysregulation were more likely to be obese later.

“This research allows us to better understand how young children’s routines around sleep, meals, and screen time relate to their regulation of emotion and behavior,” says Sarah Anderson, an associate professor in Ohio State’s College of Public Health. “Sleep is so important and it’s important for children in particular. Although there is much that remains unknown about how sleep impacts metabolism, research is increasingly finding connections between obesity and poor sleep.”

With this in mind, consider tightening up your children’s nighttime routines—it could benefit them in the long run.