Young minds benefit from bedtime routines
Establishing a bedtime routine may be one of the best things you can do for your child, experts say.
A long-term study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, found that consistent bedtimes were linked to better performance in a variety of intellectual tests.
Researchers conducted regular surveys and home visits of more than 11,000 children, all of whom were part of the UK Millennium Cohort Study. At age 7, the children were given standardized tests in reading, math and spatial awareness.
Irregular bedtimes were most common at the age of 3, when 20 percent of children went to bed at varying times. By the age of 7, more than 50 percent went to bed regularly between 7:30 and 8:30 p.m.
The study found that, in general, consistent bedtimes were linked to better performance across all subject areas. Girls who never had regular bedtimes at ages 3, 5 and 7 had significantly lower scores than girls who had consistent bedtimes. The impact was the same in boys, but for only two of the three time points.
The researchers point out that irregular bedtimes could disrupt natural body rhythms and cause sleep deprivation, undermining the brain’s ability to acquire and retain information.
“The biggest issue is parents not following through with a set bedtime,” Dr. Donavan-Hunt says. “It’s really important to stick to routines, all year long.”
She suggests removing televisions from the bedroom, and discontinuing the use of electronics as bedtime nears to make sleeping easier.
“Parents need to find ways of having the kids unwind rather than simply shutting off the television and marching them to bed,” says Dr. Donavan-Hunt. “End the night with reading, bathing or other quiet activities.”
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