Here's why consistent bedtimes are more important than you think
As hard as the bedtime process can feel sometimes, making sure your child is going to bed close to the same time each night might be more important than you think.
In 2013, a UK study was done for the journal of Pediatrics, looking at 10,000 kids between the ages of 3 and 7 years old.
When surveying both parents and teachers, they found that the children who did not have a consistent bedtime were more likely to be unhappy, fight, and be inconsiderate to others.
Basically, there was a definite correlation between non-regular bedtimes and behavioral problems.
A follow-up study was done in 2017 which showed that irregular bedtimes also negatively impacted obesity, math scores, and low self-esteem.
By putting kids to bed at drastically different times every night, parents are basically giving their children the equivalent of jet lag. Even if the kids are getting the same amount of sleep at night, their circadian rhythms are not regulated, as if they have traveled through time zones.
Think about what it's like for you when you've traveled from another time zone, or when you haven't gotten enough sleep. None of us are our best in those situations - and the last thing we want to do is send our kid’s off to school feeling jet lagged. Giving kids this feeling every night is a sure way to lower the rationality of both their mood and their mind.
And it isn’t just irregular bedtimes that are the cause of poor sleep habits in children either.
Study after study show other negative results related to LATE bedtimes as well (even if they were consistent).
In 2013, the Journal of Pediatric Psychiatry showed that early bedtimes help kids cognitively and in 2016, the Journal of Pediatrics revealed that preschoolers are less likely to be obese as teenagers if they have early bedtimes.
In 2004, the National Sleep Foundation found that toddlers who went to bed before 9pm ended up getting an average of seventy eight more minutes of sleep than those who went to bed later than 9pm. This means they are more likely to be reaching their recommended hours of sleep.
Interestingly, late bedtimes can also affect the parents’ health!
The Growing Up Australia study tracked thousands of children as they grew up and found that kids with bedtimes before 8:30pm were happier and healthier, and that their parents had better mental health, as well.
This makes sense given that parents typically don’t get much alone time or time to connect with their partners during the day.
Some parents, however, may argue that it isn’t realistic to put their kids to sleep early or the same time each night, based on their lifestyle.
As parents, we get it, and while we do encourage the 80/20 rule to allow for some flexibility, allowing your child to have an irregular or late bedtime, more than 20% of the time can have serious health implications.
Whether or not you or your child(ren) might seem to be an early bird or a night owl, our bodies naturally produce melatonin at a certain time each night, to align with dark and light.
In addition, most of us at some point will need to conform to a morning schedule because of school, which means sleeping in isn’t an option. The longer a child gets used to having a late bedtime, the harder it will be to change his schedule when the time comes.
Thankfully, the 2013 study mentioned at the beginning of this article, also noted when the kids who had inconsistent bedtimes were changed to having consistent ones, their behavior improved significantly. This proves that it's never too late to change your children's sleep habits!
Here are some tips for making the change to an earlier, consistent bedtime:
Push bedtime up gradually bt 15 minutes each day
Dim the lights in the house as it gets closer to bedtime
Avoid screen time and rowdy play before bedtime. Instead, do quiet activities, such as a bath or reading
Follow the tips from the “Overcoming the Bedtime Battle” article:
Prepare your children for bedtime by reminding them at least 3 times.
Give them choices.
Make a bedtime list/chart.
Set boundaries and follow through.
Don’t rush the routine.
How do you know what the right bedtime is for your child? Here are our recommendations…