Learn the many benefits of an early bedtime for your kids

Learn the many benefits of an early bedtime for your kids

Research has found that an earlier bedtime has a number of immediate and longterm effects on children. Learn what they are, how you can help here!

There’s no denying the benefits of an early bedtime and a good night’s rest for your kids. However, as experts claim, those benefits aren’t limited to the next day. As it turns out, the benefits of an early bedtime and a full night of slumber are many more than you imagined. 

For years, researchers have been able to find the link between children who sleep don’t get enough sleep and obesity. What these scientists have found is that a consistent late bedtime can result in a greater risk of obesity later in life as well.

Sarah Anderson, associate professor of epidemiology at Ohio State University’s College of Public Health and lead author of the study claims, “This study adds to a body of research that demonstrates that young children benefit from having a regular bedtime and bedtime routine.”

Let’s take a deeper look at how exactly sleep is linked with obesity:

In the aforementioned study (published in this month’s edition of the Journal of Pediatrics), a research team analyzed data on 977 different children who were part of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development‘s Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development.


benefits of an early bedtime

Kids of all ages and stages can benefit from a good night’s rest!

The data tracked the children from preschool-age (about 4½ years old) to early/late years of adolescence (about 15 years old) and diligently noted what time they went to bed. It also indicated their height, weight and body mass index through each age and stage of the study.
Upon comparing the children’s bedtimes in the early years of the study with their sleep habits as teenagers, the researchers found that only 10% of the children who went to bed at 8 p.m. or earlier during their preschool years were obese as teenagers. However, 23% of the children who went to bed after 9 p.m. as preschoolers were obese as teenagers.
For the children who went to bed between 8 and 9 p.m. as preschoolers, about 16% were obese as teenagers.
“Preschool-aged children with early weekday bedtimes were half as likely as children with late bedtimes to be obese as adolescents. This was true even after taking into account other factors that we know are related to risk for obesity,” Anderson said.
“Other research has shown benefits for children’s behavior, cognitive development and attention,” she added. “Regular bedtime routines, including an early bedtime, also are linked to fewer sleep problems such as nighttime awakenings or difficulty falling asleep.”
The data has clearly shown how sleep can be linked to obesity rates, but how exactly does it work? Well, as Anderson claims, “Not getting enough sleep can result in changes in the hormones controlling appetite and metabolism. Also, staying up later in the evening provides more opportunity for snacking and viewing television commercials that promote snacking.”
In short, 8 p.m. has been shown to be the best time to get your kids in bed, and can help reduce risks of obesity now and later in life!

Benefits of an early bedtime extend to your child’s brain

You’ve probably noticed that when your kids catch enough Zs, their brains are sharper, and function better. Reut Gruber, researcher at McGill University in Canada and director of the Attention, Behavior and Sleep Lab at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute elaborates on why that is:

“An early bedtime benefits a child’s physical health, as well as mood and mental health, because it allows time for restorative sleep, which is important for the repair and recovery of the brain and the body.”

As you can imagine, a lack of sleep can have adverse affects on your child’s brain and brain functionality.

“Sleep deprivation impairs the physiological processes that allow for adaptive emotional regulation. Emotional regulation processes are dependent on a ‘dialogue’ or interactions between the parts of the brain called prefrontal cortex and the amygdala,” Gruber said.

“These neural areas that govern emotional regulation are sensitive to sleep deprivation. When people are sleep-deprived, the connectivity between the prefrontal cortex and amygdala is impaired, and this leads to an individual’s difficulty to regulate emotions.”

benefits of an early bedtime

“[T]here is a vicious negative cycle, with sleep deprivation impairing emotional regulation and with impaired emotional regulation leading to increased stress and arousal, further interfering with sleep,” she added.
Of course, one doctor’s assertions may not be enough to convince you. So, let’s take a look at a study that helps illustrate the importance of sleep on brain functionality:

The study

In a 3-week study, published in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology in 2013,  32 children (aged 8 to 12 years old) were asked to sleep either one hour later or earlier than usual.
They were then asked to complete tasks that measured emotional functioning, memory attention and math fluency at the end of each week, and the researchers found that going to sleep one hour later impaired children’s performance on the tasks.
An additional study, published in 2010 in the journal Sleep, found that adolescents with bedtimes set at 10 p.m. or earlier were significantly less likely to suffer from depression and to have suicidal thoughts.
Obviously, the importance of sleep has once again proven itself to be a fundamental part of a child’s health and development. So, with so many benefits that affect children now and in the long run, what bedtimes work best for each age and stage?
Here’s a list of recommended bedtimes based on each age and stage of your kids’ development, as suggested by The American Academy of Sleep Medicine:
  • Babies 4 months to 12 months should get 12 to 16 hours
  • Children 1 to 2 years old should get 11 to 14 hours
  • Children 3 to 5 years old should get 10 to 13 hours
  • Children 6 to 12 years old should get nine to 12 hours
  • Teenagers 13 to 18 years old should get eight to 10 hours



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