Consistent bedtimes for healthier, smarter children

University College London published an article this month in the Journal Pediatrics, illustrating the benefits of consistent bedtimes for your children.  The study looked at 10,000 children at ages 3, 5, and 7 years old and gathered behavior data from their mothers and teachers.  The researchers found that children with inconsistent bedtimes had worse behavior with their behavior worsening for every year of inconsistent bedtime while children with consistent bedtimes showed better behaviors including lower incidents of hyperactivity and less problems dealing with peers and less emotional difficulties.  The study also found that children with no set bedtimes and bedtimes later than 9 pm had worse behaviors than those with earlier and consistent bedtimes.

Benefits of regular bedtimes

Consistent, regular bedtimes for children lead to a myriad of benefits in the classroom. This means that school-aged children should receive 10-12 hours of sleep a night for the increased benefits at school including

•higher scores on tests of problem solving

•decreased behavior problems

•longer attention spans

•increased IQ

•better relationships with peers

•decreased physical impulsiveness

•decreased hyperactivity 

In his book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child Dr. Marc Weissbluth states

“…sleeping well increases your attention span and allows you to be physically relaxed and mentally alert at the same time”

What Dr. Weissbluth is pointing out in his book is what researchers have also been pointing out; kids that get healthy sleep are healthier both physically and mentally. Additionally children that are well rested are more mentally alert and more attentive in the classroom and at home.

Regular sleep and brain development

Gary Enzo and Dr. Robert Buckman wrote about the benefits of sleep on the health and development of children’s brains in their book On Being Baby Wise.  Children that have a diagnosis of ADHD benefit from regular and consistent sleep patterns as healthy sleep increases their peer relations and increases their classroom performance.  Additionally, sleeps positive effect on brain development help to prevent many of the common learning and beahvior problems found in school aged children.  Consistent bedtimes also improve cognitive development specifically

•increasing reading scores

•increasing math scores

•increasing spatial test scores

•increasing language learning and acquisition skills

How much sleep is enough sleep

According to the National Sleep Foundation the following is how much sleep your child needs at the different ages of development

•0-2 months old   = 12-18 hours of sleep

•3-11 months old = 14-15 hours of sleep

•1-3 years old       = 12-14 hours of sleep

•3-5 years old       = 11-13 hours of sleep

•5-10 years old     = 10-11 hours of sleep

•10-17 years old   = 8.5-9.5 hours of sleep

•Adults                 = 7-9 hours of sleep

Tips to ensure enough sleep and its’ benefits

The most important thing to remember when ensuring your child gets enough sleep is to make bedtime regular.  This means setting a bedtime and sticking to that bedtime every night.  Over time, as a regular bedtime is enforced, it will promote healthy and independent sleep habits enabling them to get the right amount of sleep every night.  In order to make bedtimes regular you can use techniques that include setting a routine.  The best bedtime routines include

•a regular bath time to help children relax which includes brushing teeth and selecting  comfortable pajamas

•soothing music or sounds

•bed time stories that help calm children and clear their mind

•count back the recommended number of hours from the time your child wakes up to  ensure the proper number of hours of sleep

These bed time routines cue children that playtime or television time is over and that it is now bedtime.  The brain prepares for rest and healthy sleep and as the child gets closer to sleep the body begins to cool and breathing patterns become slower and deeper in order for restful sleep.

Encouraging and enforcing regular bedtimes will benefit your child both academically and physically and make hectic daily lives less chaotic.  Regular bedtimes for children not only benefit them but it also benefits the parent, allowing them to have a less stressful evening routine which can ensure that parents too get the adequate amount of sleep.