-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
FRIDAY, Sept. 30 (HealthDay News) -- Going to bed early and
waking up early may help teens stay thinner and more physically
active than their night-owl peers, and this was the case even when
both groups got the same amount of sleep, researchers say.
"The children who went to bed late and woke up late, and the children who went to bed early and woke up early got virtually the same amount of sleep in total," study co-author Carol Maher, a postdoctoral fellow with the University of South Australia, said in a news release from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
"Scientists have realized in recent years that children who get less sleep tend to do worse on a variety of health outcomes, including the risk of being overweight and obese. Our study suggests that the timing of sleep is even more important," Maher added.
In conducting the study, researchers collected information from
2,200 Australian children and teens aged 9 to 16 about when they go
to bed and when they wake up. They also compared the kids' weights
and the activities they used to fill their free time over the
course of four days.
The study, published in the Oct. 1 issue of the journal
Sleep, found that the night owls who also slept in later in the morning were 1.5 times more likely to become obese than the kids who were early to bed and early to rise.
In addition to gaining weight, teens who burned the midnight oil
were also twice as likely to be sedentary and nearly three times as
likely to spend an excessive amount of time watching TV, using the
computer or playing video games.
The researchers suggested that early birds may tend to be leaner
and more active because they are not distracted by prime-time TV
shows and evening social networking.
The study authors warned that teens have a natural inclination
to stay up late and wake up late, which could be worrisome since
the activities available at those times are primarily sedentary and
"It is widely accepted that the sleep patterns of adolescents are fundamentally different from children and adults, and that it is normal for adolescents to stay up very late and sleep in late in the morning," Maher explained in the news release. "Our findings show that this sleeping pattern is associated with unfavorable activity patterns and health outcomes, and that the adolescents who don't follow this sleep pattern do better."
Among the study's other key findings:
The National Sleep Foundation provides more information on
teens and sleep.
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