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Good bedtime habits produce happier kids

January 30, 2014

Baby Car Seat

Sleep issues are one the most common that parents face.

Jodi Mindell

Johnson's Baby

Sleep makes your kids happy! But how do you get them to go to bed?

1. Set limits. A regular sleeping schedule will give children – especially young children – the structure that they need in order to sleep soundly.

2. Remain consistent. Remind yourself that good bedtime habits mean that you need to stay firm.

3. Practice good sleep habits. That means making sure your child avoids bright lights, caffeine, and excitement in the time period before he goes to bed. A quiet bedroom routine can prime your child’s body for sleep.

4. Teach your children about the importance of sleep. Older children may be especially open to hearing about the benefit of sufficient sleep. Especially if your child is a high achiever who pulls all-nighters to aim for high grades, it can be important for her to know that getting a good night’s sleep is even more important for her grades than staying up late to study.

5. Don’t make excuses. While there is some variation in the amount of sleep children require, the myth of some requiring only a few hours is probably wrong.  When studied, such people show signs of sleep deprivation.  The range for school age children is 10-11 hours, and for teenagers 8.5-10.  So, yes, there is a range, but it is generally above what most get anyway!

Why? Because science says so!

A 2013 UK-based study of more than 11,000 7 year olds suggests that children who lacked a regular bedtime or whose bedtime was too late were more likely to struggle in reading and math class. The study was conducted by University College London using UK Millennium Cohort Study data. Naps can be especially important for younger children, with researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst finding that children perform significantly better on learning-related tasks after a solid nap.

It’s common for children to complain that they need to stay up late to study or do homework. By doing so, however, they might sabotaging their own success. “Particularly before an examination, sleep is important, as you also need to be alert and rested to concentrate on the examination itself,” says  Dr. Carl Bazil, MD, PhD, a sleep expert at Columbia University Medical Center. Staying up later and sleeping in on weekends can also impair your child’s week, leaving her tired and less focused on Monday morning.