Studies have shown us that an established sleep routine is crucial to kids getting a good night sleep, but now we're seeing that kids who have regular bedtimes when they're younger may become healthier teens because of it.
A new study by researchers at Penn State shows that children who had regular bedtimes during early childhood may impact their body weight as they grow older through adolescence. The researchers conducted a national study and found that children who had no strict bedtime routine at the age of 9 had a higher BMI at the age of 15 than those who had a bedtime routine.
Co-author of the study, Orfeu Buxton, a professor of biobehavioral health at Penn State as well as the director of the Sleep, Health, and Society Collaboratory at Penn State said that the study shows the importance of establishing good sleep patterns and routines from a young age. "Parenting practices in childhood affect physical health and BMI in the teenage years. Developing a proper routine in childhood is crucial for the future health of the child," Buxton said, "We think sleep affects physical and mental health, and the ability to learn."
Buxton said that a child's bedtime should be determined by a number of factors, including their age, what time they need to be up in the morning and how long it takes them to get ready to go to school or daycare, etc. Buxton also suggests that parents give their children a 'window' of time to fall asleep, whether they like to read before bed or it simply takes them a bit of time before they nod off. "Giving children the time frame to get the appropriate amount of sleep is paramount," Buxton urged.
We know from previous research that good sleep hygiene, which means a regular bedtime and set sleep practices help a child sleep better and longer, and that sleep is crucial to a child's development. This study helps show that establishing those positive sleep routines from a young age only helps to benefit the child as they grow into adolescence. This current study shows that children who have consistent age-appropriate bedtimes and sleep routines were getting the amount of sleep they needed, while children who didn't have a consistent sleep routine weren't getting the sleep they require.
While it's not always easy to get your kids to bed at a reasonable hour, and they may complain their friends get to stay up later or they simply want to watch one more show, rest assured that by giving them a consistent, age-appropriate bedtime is the best for them and that those benefits will last well in to their teenage years.