If you are a parent in this digital age we live in, you know the nightly battle that happens when trying to get children to “log off” and go to sleep. As parents, we sometimes yearn for the good old days before cell phones and all the digital devices most children have today.

There are a number of reasons why it is a good practice to make your children go to bed early, no matter how busy your schedule is. We’ve outlined a few below.

Early to Bed, Early to Rise
Children who get to sleep early tend to be more relaxed, which helps with decision making.

  • Early bedtimes help with memory and attention skills. Children are less depressed and have fewer suicidal thoughts.
  • Getting children to bed early also has benefits for mom. Mothers who get their children to sleep early have less mental health issues than those who let their children stay up later.
  • According to the University of New England, the amount of sleep isn’t as important as the quality of sleep, i.e. getting to sleep earlier in the evening.

What is Considered Early and How Much Sleep Should Children Get
Melatonin, the hormone that tells the brain to relax and go to sleep, peaks in children around 8 pm. This is a good time to start the bedtime routine.

  • Jon Quach of the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute says that children should be sleeping by 8:30 pm, not just be in bed.
  • The sleep they get in the early night hours is more restorative than the sleep they get in the early morning hours.
  • Sleep experts also suggest keeping children away from smartphones, video games and other electronic devices after 7 pm.
  • Many digital devices emit a light that keeps young minds a little wired. They need at least an hour for their brains to wind down.
  • Teens need 9 to 11 hours of sleep; pre-school children need 10 to 13 hours.

No one likes the bedtime battle we sometimes wage with our kids, but the benefits outweigh the possible health issues brought on by late bedtimes and lack of sleep.

Making Up Sleep on the Weekend
Making up sleep on the weekend would be nice, but could actually do more harm than good.

  • The Sleep Institute found that kids who sleep in late on weekends to make up for sleep deprivation they incurred during the week, do poorly on tests where detail is critical.
  • These same kids tend to be more irritable and aggressive and sometimes lack good social skills.
  • Most teens who stay up late are usually in front of a screen and probably snacking. These same teens are mostly too tired for exercise and become overweight, which could lead to other health issues like diabetes.
  • The later a child stays up, the later it takes their minds to wind down and actually fall asleep. Children with early bedtimes tend to fall asleep faster.

Experts also agree that exercise and quiet family time is key to an early bedtime.

  • Daily exercise helps to prevent those pre-bedtime energy bursts and provides other health benefits as well.
  • Gathering the family together for some quiet time after dinner, no screens, creates a calming atmosphere which helps to bring on sleep.

In the real world, getting your children to bed at the same time every night is nearly impossible, especially during holidays and vacations, and there are countless things that occur which interfere with bedtime schedules. But if you can keep to a schedule at least 4 or 5 nights a week, your children will be getting more sleep than most of their classmates at school.

Persistence and discipline is the key. Well rested children with early bedtimes make for happy, active and smarter kids. Plus, happy, healthy children are much more fun to be around.

For more information, visit Careworks.

Author:  Kim Tacconi, PA-C