New parents often ask, “Does your baby sleep through the night?”. Or they might brag, “My baby slept six hours straight last night!” After all, every parent hopes to be able to get more sleep for themselves at night.
Sleep consolidation and sleep duration are important factors for healthy sleep (Blog Posts 11 and 6). However, it is important to remember that early bedtimes produce longer sleep durations (Blog Posts 7 and 74).
Furthermore, in addition to longer sleep durations, early bedtimes also provide better quality sleep (Blog Post 15). Children with late bedtimes have poorer quality sleep and are more likely to have behavioral problems even when they have normal 24-hour sleep durations because of later wake-up times and/or longer naps (Blog Post 69).
In a 2021 paper titled, ‘Beyond sleep duration: Sleep timing is a risk factor for childhood obesity’, researchers studied 12-year-old children with severe obesity who were compared to a matched group but with normal weight. Children with severe obesity had significantly later bedtimes but no difference in sleep duration. “It is possible that having a late [bedtime] results in being awake when the internal circadian timing system [Blog Post 8] favors sleep. A discrepancy between actual sleep timing and circadian rhythms may result in alterations in metabolic processes, that in the long run may have a negative effect on weight status.”
Another study of about 10,000 children age 7-18 years “found that later bedtime (after 10:00pm) on weekends was associated with abdominal obesity in all children.”
Supporting this research, other findings (Blog Post 23) have shown that if your child has an earlier bedtime, your child will be taller and slimmer.