Sleep Well. The importance of early bedtimes for Children

By Rachael Willis on August 8, 2017 in Parenting

Early nights are so important for our children’s physical and mental health which means putting in boundaries for them to get off screens well before bedtime for quality sleep.

In many households the daily challenge of getting children to wind down for bedtime (at a reasonable hour!) can be exhausting and becomes stressful end to each day. You may even find yourself questioning weather early bedtimes for extra sleep are worth all the trouble (and fights!).

Well now we have some scientific evidence on why early nights are so important.

I recently came across a study published in the September Journal of Pediatrics, which provides new evidence that preschoolers with earlier bedtimes are at a much lower risk for developing obesity in their teen years. In fact, study authors found that “preschool-aged children with early weekday bedtimes were one-half as likely as children with late bedtimes to be obese as adolescents.” In other words, establishing good sleep routines early could be a major factor in preventing childhood obesity altogether.

According to Sarah Anderson (the lead study author from the Ohio State’s College of Public Health.), “it’s not necessarily about the exact time you put your kids to bed, but rather the quality and quantity of sleep they’re getting that has lasting effects on many aspects of their behaviour. And surprisingly, everything from their ability to regulate emotions, mental health issues, hormones, and metabolism can be affected by not getting enough sleep”.


So with bedtimes a battle how do you ensure your pre-schooler or teen is getting enough quality sleep? A good place to start is to look at what’s a “normal” bedtime / sleep duration for children of the same age.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine has provided a recommendation for sleep durations according to age; based on a 24-hour period (including nap times):

  • Infants 4-12 months: 12-16 hours of sleep a night
  • Kids 1-2 years of age: 11-14 hours of sleep a night
  • Kids 3-5 years of age: 10-13 hours of sleep a night
  • Kids 6-12 years of age: 9-12 hours of sleep a night
  • Teens 13-18 years of age: 8-10 hours of sleep a night
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Dr. Sumit Bhargava, a clinical associate professor of pediatrics at the Stanford University School of Medicine, also suggests parents set a bedtime that will help kids get the amount of sleep they need to be functional the next day.

“An early bedtime, per se, will not necessarily affect a child’s physical health or mood and mental health in a positive way,” Dr. Bhargava told CNN. “The goal should be, choose an age-appropriate bedtime that allows the individual child to get the hours of sleep the child needs.”

“Sleep is just as important to human life as eating and breathing,” adds Dr. Bhargava. “We spend almost a third of our lives sleeping.”

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Ultimately it’s up to parents to figure out how well our children are functioning and adjust their sleep accordingly. With knowledge in hand, time to feel empowered and take the lead on how your household functions.

Or in the wise words of the Man in the Moon….

Sleep babies, time for bed

The Man in the Moon

Looked out of the Moon,
And this is what he said:
“‘Tis time for all children, on the earth
To think about getting to bed!!!”


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Rachael WillisView all posts by Rachael Willis


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