A new study on the way sleep affects young children has brought to light the crucial importance of consistent, early bedtimes for children between the ages of three and seven. The study gathered data on a series of children at ages three, five, and seven and was able to correlate those with poor sleep habits with reduced brain function. Children who went to bed at different times each night tested lower in math, reading, and special awareness. The negative effects of improper sleep were more pronounced for girls, but both genders benefited from stable sleep schedules.
The report, published in the Journal of Epidemiology, looks to prove that it is not just sufficient sleep that young children need, but also consistent times to be sleeping. The research shows that regardless of the child’s background, going to bed at the same time each time proved essential to their brain function and growth. Even after the study adjusted for the fact that children without bedtimes often come from difficult homes, the connection between consistent bedtimes and brain power remained.
The results showed 7:30 PM as the optimal time for young children to go to bed. Children with bedtimes before then did not showcase better results. Even if the child’s bedtime is later than 7:30, the most important thing is that the child obeys that sleep schedule every night.
The study concludes that, "Establishing a good bedtime routine early in childhood is probably best, but it's never too late."
Around the globe, millions of parents will see this news, and shake their heads sadly as they remember the times they let their son have a soda at dinner, and then the kid didn’t go to sleep until 4AM. It’s OK, parents; you’ll get um’ next time.