New research has found that children who fall asleep early are more likely to be healthier and their mums will have better mental health.
“So mums and dads, getting kids to bed early is not just great for them. It’s good for you, too,” said Jon Quach, lead author and research fellow at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne.
Early to bed as defined by Quach and his colleagues is being asleep by 8:30 p.m.
Between and 7:30 and 8:30pm is a the ideal time to be putting your school aged kids to bed. Their level of melatonin- the hormone that helps the brain sleep- tends to peak around 8pm- says Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, a Seattle pediatrician who writes the Seattle Mama Doc blog.
“We know that sleep is a really relevant part of our mental health, our mood. We know in kids, it’s related to behavioral [issues] and the ability to self-control,” Swanson said.
“When we think about mum, it makes a lot of sense to me that if kids are early to bed, mum is going to wind down, get things done and feel like things are under control.”
The study results were based on interviews with children and parents taking part in the “Growing Up in Australia” study, which began tracking thousands of Australian families in 2004 and continued to check in with them every two years. Information was collected from parents of kids who were 4 to 5 years old, then again when they were 6 to 7, and finally when they were 8 to 9 years old.
After looking at the study’s sleep and lifestyle data, the researchers found children with earlier bedtimes had “better health-related quality of life” compared to the other kids, while their mothers had improved mental health.
This was true regardless of how long the children actually slept — the key was going to bed early. The findings were presented at the Sleep DownUnder 2015 conference in Melbourne last month.
The U.S. National Sleep Foundation recommends 10-13 hours of sleep for preschoolers and 9-11 hours of sleep for school age children.
Kids do much better when they have a very consistent bedtime, but that can be an issue for families, Swanson noted.
“Without question, people struggle with bedtime,” she said. “That might be the result of having a child overscheduled. … The other thing we know is we’re starting to see the creep of digital devices into the bedtime routine and into the bedroom itself.”
Swanson suggests the following four steps to help get your kids to sleep on time:
Make sure they get exercise during the day
Have screens out of their hands by 7 p.m.
Give them time to wind down after dinner
Give them a chance to spend family time with you before you tuck them into bed.
“There is no question that consistency and prioritization of sleep is going to make your life better,” Swanson said.
What time do your children go to sleep? Is it consistent every night? It’s always hard establishing a routine and sticking to it, but the results can be enormous. Once the children are in bed, the adults have time to wind down relax and generally just do things for themselves- whether it be watching some TV, catching up with friends or reading a book. All this is crucial for a mother and a father’s mental well being.