The researchers looked at three main household routines in children three years of age: regular bedtime, consistent mealtime, and whether or not screen exposure was limited. The, the researchers looked at how these routines affected obesity rates in the children by the time they were 11 years old. The international criteria for obesity was used.
The data used in the study was from almost 11,000 children who participated in the Millennium Cohort Study, a long-term survey of children born in the United Kingdom. At age three years:
- 41% of the children had regular bedtimes
- 47% of the children had regular mealtimes
- 23% of the children have limitations on screen time
By 11 years of age, only 6% of the children surveyed were considered obese.
The study shows that routines for children are associated with healthy development. This may be because daily routines and regular sleep schedules can help children regulate their emotions and, as a result, avoid obesity later on. One of the study authors indicated that the children who had the most trouble regulating emotion during the preschool years were more likely to be obese later.
With more research, more about the role of emotional regulation and bedtimes in relation to weight gain can be uncovered. The study was published in The International Journal of Obesity.