Staying up late could be making your kids dumb!
Rest, a nutritious breakfast, and parental support all play a part in how well a child does in school. But recent research out of the United Kingdom suggests that proper sleep is even more important than we previously thought. In fact, children with a late and/or inconsistent bedtime fare worse in both reading and math than kids who hit the sack before 9 p.m. every day.
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The study, which involved more than 11,000 seven-year-olds, shows that lack of sleep disrupts natural biological rhythms and likely affects how the brain processes information. Researchers collected information when the children were 3, 5 and then again at 7 to see how well they were doing academically and found that children who had never had a regular bed time did worse on math, reading, and spatial awareness tests than children who did, with girls having an even harder time than boys. The effects of late or irregular bedtimes also appeared to be cumulative.
Researchers suggest that the most important factor in ensuring that children get the appropriate amount of sleep at the right time is routine--a concept I firmly believe in and have already seen the benefits of with my 1-year-old son.
While I'm encouraged by the fact that researchers are continuing to study the importance of sleep in the lives of young children, I'm not at all surprised by the findings. For one thing, any new parent can tell you how crappy you feel when you go to bed too late or don't get enough sleep. It's a fairly common sense concept, and we should know that the same idea applies to sleepy children as well. We can't expect our kids to function on all cylinders, when one or more of them is burned out. Not only that, but despite the fact you'll find as many healthy sleep solutions as you'll find child sleep experts, they pretty much all agree that routine is one of the most important factors in establishing good sleep.
One of the major benefits of teaching your children how to sleep well from infancy--which you do by firmly establishing naptime and bed time routines from early on--is that they will carry those skills with them for the rest of their lives. So the next time you feel like you're ruining your little one's life because you're making him go to bed at 8 p.m. even though he insists he's not tired, remember that you know best, and that you are making and enforcing choices that will benefit him greatly in the long run.
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