"While we know it can be hard to get children to bed early, and at consistent times both on weekdays and at weekends, it might help parents or carers to know that establishing consistent and early bedtimes may reduce the risk that their child will be overweight or obese," said study lead author Yaqoot Fatima from the University of Queensland and James Cook University in Australia.
For the findings, published in the journal Acta Paediatrica, the research team wanted to explore sleep patterns in indigenous Australian children and assess the role of sleep timing in longitudinal changes in body mass index (BMI).
In the study of 1,258 Indigenous Australian children were picked with an average age of 6 years.
Latent profile analysis was conducted with the Australian Longitudinal Study of Indigenous Children (LSIC) cohort data, to determine distinct patterns of bed and wake timing, taking account of weekday sleep duration, weekday and weekend bedtimes, and weekday wake times.
Multilevel models with a random intercept were used to investigate the role of baseline sleep pattern in predicting longitudinal changes in BMI.
The researchers found that children who consistently went to bed late experienced greater weight gain over several years than those who went to bed early.
The findings highlight the importance of looking beyond sleep duration and highlighting the benefits of early bedtimes for children.
"As sleep timing is modifiable, this offers the opportunity for improvement in sleep and protecting against future weight gain in indigenous children," the researchers noted.