Hey kids, I’ve got some great news for you. If you go to bed close to the same time every night – before you start feeling grumpy – then you’ll sleep longer, be happier, and feel healthier!
You’ll even become a little bit smarter if you have a regular bedtime!
I’m not kidding! Scientists in white coats have proven it!
Parents, if you happen to be reading this too, you’ll no doubt be pleased to hear the news.
The findings come from an international study by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), which linked regular bedtime routines with consistent sleep and better health.
More than 10,000 mothers were surveyed for the study in 14 nations including Australia, New Zealand, the UK, the USA, and various Asian nations including China and India.
The Benefits Of A Bedtime Routine
According to the research, if you get your kids into a consistent bedtime routine, they will….
- Get to sleep more quickly
- Wake up less often
- Sleep for longer
- Feel happier
- Do better at school
- Have better relationships
- Be physically healthier
- Have less behavioural issues
Australian parenting author, Dr Justin Coulson, said children with a bedtime routine every night slept for more than an hour longer per night, on average, than children who’ve never had a bedtime routine.
“What parent wouldn’t want that,” he said.
He said the opposite effect happens when children are sleep deprived: lack of slumber is linked to not only low energy, but also emotional, relational and behavioural issues, as well as troubles at school.
“It seems like if they don’t get the right amount of sleep, we get all sorts of complicating factors that really mess with our family and our kids,” he said.
Tips For Children’s Bedtime Routine
If you struggle to get your kids to sleep on time, take heart. The experts say it’s not hard to achieve with a little consistent effort.
Tip 1 – Work Out What Time The Kids Get Crabby
“We need to watch our kids and have a look at what time they start getting grizzly and irritable,” Dr Coulson said.
“So if we’ve got young kids, let’s say it’s about sort of 6.30 or 7 o’clock, if they’re a bit older it might be 7.30 to 8 o’clock.”
Tip 2 – Lights Out 15 Minutes Before Grumpy Hour
It seems that when kids get a little bit too tired they don’t sleep well, says Dr Coulson. So it’s best to have them in bed about 15 minutes before grizzle-time.
“If the kids are getting a bit grizzly around 6.45 or 7 o’clock, aim to have them going to bed at around about 6.30, then just work backwards from there to fit your routine in.
“That might mean that we feed the kids dinner at 5.30, we give them a bath at 6, we read them stories at 6.15, we give them that little back rub or hug, or sing songs and say prayers with them at 6.25, and then hopefully everything’s in order by about 6.30.”
Tip 3 – Have A Series Of Comforting Bedtime Rituals
Your child’s routine might include a bath, cleaning teeth, reading a book, tucking in, chatting about the day’s highlights and lowlights, a song, a prayer time, or a cheerful “see you in the morning” followed by “hoot, hoot!”.
Every child’s bedtime routine is different, but according to the AASM, what matters is that they have one.
They recommend “a set sequence of pleasurable and calming activities”, which “establish a behavioural chain leading up to sleep onset”.
In other words, if you do the same things in the same order every night, in a soothing environment, your kids will nod off with greater ease.
Tip 4 – Start Bedtime Routines As Young As Possible
While it’s never too late to start, the principal researcher involved in the study, Jodi Mindell, PhD, said if you start forming a bedtime routine at an early age, they’ll establish better patterns.
“The younger that the routine is started, the better their child is likely to sleep,” she said.
Tip 5 – The More Nights You Stick To Routine, The Better
The study also found that the more nights you follow the same pattern every week, the more frequently your kids will get a great nights’ sleep.
For each additional night that a family gets their child to follow the routine, the better they sleep.
“It’s like other healthy practices,” Ms Mindell said. “Doing something just one day a week is good, doing it for three days a week is better, and doing it every day is best.”
Tip 6 – Be Flexible But Consistent
“We don’t need to be militant,” Dr Coulson said. “We can be a little bit flexible.
“But we just have to be consistent. So if bedtime’s 6.30 and one night they’re up until 10 to 7 or 7 o’clock that’s not the end of the world.
“It’s when it’s 6.30 one night and 8 o’clock the next night, and 9.30 the next night, it’s that kind of thing that really messes with them.”
“All we’ve got to do is be a little consistent, make sure the kids know predictably what’s coming next, get them to bed at about the same time every night, and it’s amazing what happens.”
He’s Not Just A Researcher – He’s A Dad!
If you’re wondering how Dr Coulson can be so confident about the wonders of a regular bedtime, rest assured he hasn’t just read the science.
He has plenty of experience too, being a father of six children. And their bedtimes are fairly consistent.
“We have to work on it like everyone,” he said. “With six kids sometimes there are some challenges.”
“But we’ve got a five-year-old goes to bed around 6.45 to 7 o’clock, a seven-year-old who goes to bed around 7 to 7.15, 11 and 12-year-olds who go to bed around about 8 pm, and a nearly-16-year-old who usually wants to start chatting at bedtime around 9.30pm or 10 o’clock.”
“And we’ve got a baby so she just goes to sleep when she needs to.”
For More Information
- Dr Justin Coulson is a parenting speaker, author and researcher, and founder of happyfamilies.com.au.