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Kids Need Regular Bedtimes or Their Brains Turn to Mush (Sort Of)

Posted by on Jul. 9, 2013 at 1:26 PM
  • 10 Replies

Kids Need Regular Bedtimes or Their Brains Turn to Mush (Sort Of)

by Julie Ryan Evans

sleeping girlGet thy kids to bed on time. That's the takeaway from a new British study that says kids' cognitive abilities may be diminished if they don't keep a regular bedtime.

As much as we want them to go to sleep (peace, at last!), however, it's not always easy with older siblings' activities, and especially in the long, lazy days of summer. But all those extra hours up here and late nights there can really do some significant damage to their brainpower it seems.

According to U.S. News, the study followed 11,000 children at ages 3, 5, and 7. When given tests to check math and reading skills and spatial awareness, those who had irregular bedtimes at age 3 scored lower in all three areas than those who went to bed at a consistent time each night.

Results varied from there at older ages, but girls were especially affected by sleep irregularities. At age 7 girls with irregular bedtimes scored lower on all three tests, while boys didn't seem to be affected as significantly. Experts say the effects seem to be cumulative over the years. Study author Amanda Sacker explained:

Early child development has profound influences on health and well-being across the life course. Therefore, reduced or disrupted sleep -- especially if it occurs at key times in development -- could have important impacts on health throughout life.

The paper notes that while the study proved a connection, it "did not prove cause-and-effect". It also did not find that staying up late was detrimental, as long as the hour they go to bed is consistent. Still, it's the best reason I've heard in a long time to get my kids to bed on time each night. I'm pretty consistent anyway -- mostly because I work at night and need the peace and quiet -- but it's good to know that it's paying off in other ways too.

As for getting them to sleep, that can be another story despite the best of intentions, but here are seven great tips to get toddlers to sleep that can help.

Do your kids keep a regular bedtime? What do you make of this study?

by on Jul. 9, 2013 at 1:26 PM
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by on Jul. 9, 2013 at 1:31 PM
2 moms liked this

 I personally think it has more to do with the amount & quality of the sleep then it dose with what time & routine of going to sleep.

by Silver Member on Jul. 9, 2013 at 1:48 PM

I agree with this.  The amount of sleep and the quality of sleep seem to be much more important than what time they go to bed.  DS has a semi regular bedtime, but it does vary depending on if he is at my house or his dad's house. 

Quoting usmom3:

 I personally think it has more to do with the amount & quality of the sleep then it dose with what time & routine of going to sleep.

by Platinum Member on Jul. 9, 2013 at 1:50 PM
I agree with the article. Kids need some routine and everyone does better going to sleep and getting up within an hour of the same time every day. There have been many studies on it.
by Bronze Member on Jul. 9, 2013 at 3:14 PM
I haven't been doing so great with regular bedtimes this summer. :(
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by on Jul. 9, 2013 at 3:23 PM

I totally agree with the routine.  My kids get really out of whack when their schedules are disturbed.  Now, if it's a gradual slide, like over breaks and such, they're much better, but then they have to come back down to reality and that adjustment is harder.

by on Jul. 9, 2013 at 4:19 PM

My homeschooled daughter has a bedtime--11pm. I let her sleep as long as she needs to sleep. That's the beauty of homeschooling!

by on Jul. 9, 2013 at 4:26 PM

My poor youngest one, she got the short straw of life when it comes to her early years :(  Since she is my DHs daughter, we had her 50% of the time as a baby and toddler, schoolage led to a court battle, which DH won.  But when she was 1-5 her routine was very consistent, half the time, the other half we have no idea what went on.  But I wouldn't doubt this is just one more thing to add to her list of 'what ifs' of her baby/toddler-hood.

by on Jul. 9, 2013 at 7:19 PM

I don't think you can differentiate between a good routine and good sleep. I mean - if a family is providing one, they are most likely providing the other. Parents aren't going to do a detailed story, cuddles, brush teeth, potty etc routine and then send their child to sleep on the floor in the living room while they play video games, yk? It's all good parenting.

We've always had pretty good bedtime routines. They've varied a bit over the years due to their needs (for awhile they were waaaay too long! LOL) - for now, it's pretty much down to within the same 30 minute span every night (8:30 - 9:00 in summer; we'll move it closer to 8:00 once it starts getting dark earlier in the fall). They go upstairs, put on jammies (take baths earlier in the evening if it's a bath night), and brush their teeth. Then we have a family prayer and then either I or DH will read a chapter of a book aloud to all of them, or DH will read a short book individually with each of them. Our son likes to keep his bedroom door open until he falls asleep, then we close it later. Our girls share a room and they close their door. Some nights we let the oldest stay up an extra 30 minutes in another room (she's 3 & 4 years older than the other two), working on a craft or workbook. 

by on Jul. 9, 2013 at 11:04 PM
We've struggled to get dd on a consistent bed time since she was a baby. She's 5 now and goes to bed sometime between 9 and midnight and wakes between 7:30 and 10:30. It's horrible. Baby will be 1 Saturday. Her sleep schedule is better but she still wakes too often. I don't mind night wake ups still at this age, but she wakes typically 3 times in the first two hours after going down, then two more times in the night with the last one resulting in latching on to the all night diner and sleep nursing for the last two hours. Ugh. Now naps are a different story. They are such a mess. No consistency there at all.

I really want to get them both sleeping better. No idea how to really get there though.
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by on Jul. 10, 2013 at 12:18 AM
While we do keep a regular bedtime routine, my scientific mind says this correlation seems somewhat flawed..
In order to truly prove it is the bedtime that affects the brain, they would have to have some children with a regular bedtime change to having an irregular bedtime over a period of time IMO.. Things like *good parenting* could play a HUGE role in this.. i.e. parents who are concerned enough to have regular bedtime schedules with their kids probably do a lot of other things to help their kids education/health/well being.. kwim?
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