It’s Time to Banish Inconsistent Children’s Bedtimes and Late Nights. Here’s Why.

Early to bed means – early to rise? Maybe. But, research from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne says that it also means better mental health. This goes for both the child and the mum too!

Ok, so this might not exactly shock many mums out there. It’s not like getting the kids to bed a few hours earlier equalling a better mind-set is breaking news. That said, now researchers have confirmed what we all probably already knew: That an early bedtime is better – for everyone.

When researchers reviewed data from “Growing Up Australia” (a study that has followed thousands of children since 2004) they found a link between when children went to bed and quality of life. The study didn’t necessarily find a connection between the amount of sleep that the children got and mental health. Instead, the time that the children went to bed was the main factor.

What was the definition of an ‘early children’s bedtime’? Even though putting the kids to bed somewhere around 6:30 may sound like a dream on some nights, for this study 8:30 pm was the magic number. The researchers looked at data from 4 to 5-year-olds and then went back and looked at the sleep times and lifestyle details from the same children (and mums) when the kids were 6 to 7 and 8 to 9.

According to the study, the children who had earlier bedtimes were in better health and had mums with better mental health qualities.

If you didn’t already want your kids to go to sleep earlier, this study might just put the thought into your head. But, do the kids agree? Probably not. Having children who put up a fuss, make excuses or try to drag out bedtime isn’t exactly uncommon. Even though preschoolers need between 10 and 13 hours of sleep and grade schoolers need between 9 and 11 (according to the U.S. National Sleep Foundation), your child may protest when you put her to bed.

You could try tucking your little one in straight after dinner or putting your foot down at 8:30 sharp. It’s likely that you already know neither of those options are likely to work. What does work? Netflix and DreamWorks Animation think that they might have an answer. Granted, lulling the kids to sleep with a video isn’t exactly a pro tip – but, how many times have the kids whined, “Mummy, just one more movie?” in response to, “It’s bedtime!”

Some kids truly want to watch yet another movie or show, while others use this line as a stalling tactic. Like, “Just one more glass of water, please!” and, “One more book,” the “one more movie” idea is a way that your child thinks she’ll get a later bedtime. Popping in a 30 minute show or a two hour movie isn’t the answer. Netflix’s “5 Minute Favorites” shortens the watching time to (a not surprisingly) five minute length. Based on the animated series Dinotrux, the mini episodes give kids that ‘last movie’ they’re looking for, but don’t draw out the bedtime routine.

Let’s say your kids don’t subscribe to the “Just one more” motivation. What now? Sitting them down to an online flick might do more harm than good when it comes to heading off to dreamland. Taking the screen away for an hour before bedtime may make falling asleep easier.

Winding down with a book or another relaxing activity may also help your child accept an earlier bedtime. Remember, consistency is key. If you tuck your child in at 8:30 on Monday, 9:30 on Wednesday and 11:00 on Friday, they won’t know what to expect. Likewise, an early weekday and late weekend bedtime may knock her off any sort of schedule and lead to sleepless nights – for you too.

Save your sanity, for real. With the new research on kids and sleep, setting an earlier bedtime is a must-do for your mental health. Along with giving you that extra few hours to relax and de-stress, you might even get some time to catch up on your chores or finish sending those all-important work emails. Or, you could sit down to a viewing of the Real Housewives with a glass of wine and pint of chocolate ice cream!

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