In many households, bedtime is the most stressful time of day. Trying to get kids into bed, and then to sleep, can be extremely trying, but it is worth persevering.
That’s because children who have a regular bedtime schedule tend to be better behaved than those who don’t – and they’re also better at learning.
A new study has found that children who don’t have regular bedtimes are more likely to have behavioural problems. That could be because kids who stay up late become tired, grumpy and easily distracted thanks to a shortage of sleep, or because there may be a lack of discipline in other areas of their lives.
The good news is that researchers at University College London found that children who have irregular bedtimes as preschoolers can show improved behaviour, if they’ve got a good bedtime routine in place by the time they’re seven.
Meanwhile, another study has found that children who stick to a regular bedtime are better at languages, reading and maths.
Behaviour and learning ability are not the only reasons you should get your kids to bed at a decent hour, regardless of their age. A lack of sleep is also believed to be linked to a number of other concerns:
• Difficulty focusing on school work. Often they are so tired, they just can’t concentrate.
• Being overweight – there’s a link between inadequate sleep and obesity.
• Hyperactive behaviour.
• Increased tendency to be aggressive and impulsive.
A bedtime routine is not only important to help them get a good night’s sleep, it’s also a nice way of building your relationship with your child. It’s an opportunity to give them your undivided attention, to talk through events of the day and discuss what’s happening tomorrow, and find out what is on their mind.
With younger children, a bedtime story is a lovely ritual that also helps to get them interested in reading.
Consistency is the key to a good bedtime routine, and it also helps if you can begin it as early as possible in their life.
From a young age, it’s good to get them used to winding down by having a bath or a shower, a cup of hot milk or Milo, and then going to bed. Read them a story, but don’t let them watch TV in bed or play computer games – this
can leave them too over-stimulated. This also applies to teens.
Work out an appropriate time for lights out, by counting back from the time they usually wake up in the morning – naturally early risers will need an earlier bedtime.