The kid’s bedtime battle. We all know our kids should get a certain number of hours sleep a night, but how many exactly? AND it turns out, the number of hours is only part of the equation resulting in well-behaved kids.
Yep, hours spent snoozing is only part of the deal. It’s the bedtime TIMING (and the consistency of it) that dreams and great behaviour are quite literally made of.
So if you’re of the “my kids can go to bed whenever” camp, you might just want to rethink your actions (and read on).
It all started with an intriguing case study
A British study looked at the bedtime habits of a huge 10,000 children aged between three and seven years. Results showed that kids with flexible, irregular bedtimes had more behavioural difficulties than those with a firm, predictable bedtime routine.
Bedtime = happy time
Kids who lacked the night time routine scored higher on the scale in general unhappiness, being inconsiderate and fighting. It wasn’t just the parents weighing in either. Teachers of school-aged children were also on the scoring panel, rating the behaviour of kids missing out on regular bedtimes as being more problematic.
As a parent, these are things we might pass off as being just a phase or a less desirable personality trait. Who knew it was something that could be controlled by bedtime routine!
Consistency is key
Consistency – yes, that ol’ chestnut. We’ve heard it before and now it’s time to practice it. The research shows that a consistent bedtime routine REALLY does affect so much more than kids’ sleep quality. It can also determine whether your child is more likely to be happy and kind or grumpy and unthoughtful.
Thanks to the study’s lead researcher Yvonne Kelly, it’s come to light that even if the kids are getting the SAME hours of sleep every night, it’s not enough. Children who are put to bed at 8pm one night and 10pm the next night can suffer from “social jet lag”.
Yvonne writes “Without ever getting on a plane, a child’s bodily systems get shuffled through different time zones, and their circadian rhythms and hormonal systems take a hit as a result”.
For us parents, this ABSOLUTELY explains ratty kids on a Sunday following a Saturday night out.
Good news: it’s never too late to change
Thankfully, it’s never too late to put your foot down and establish a solid and consistent bedtime routine. It was reported that when kids in the study switched from their irregular bedtimes to a predictable bedtime, their behaviour improved measurably. Yvonne says “This shows that it’s never too late to help children back onto a positive path, and a small change could make a big difference to how well they get on”.
How to determine your child’s bedtime
The first port of call in determining a suitable bedtime for kids is to know how much sleep they should be getting every night. Hours of sleep do vary according to age, so here’s a handy guide:
Newborn to 3 month-olds – 15 to 17 hours around the clock
Babies 4 to 11 month-olds – 9 to 12 hours at night plus a daytime nap (1½ to 3 hours)
Toddlers 1 to 3 year-olds – 9 to 11 hours at night plus a daytime nap (1 to 2½ hours)
School-aged kids from 4 years old and older – 10 to 13 hours at night
Adults 18 years-old and older – 7 to 9 hours at night
Parenting isn’t an easy task, and we all want to have well-behaved children. So if a simple and CONSISTENT bedtime routine is what it takes to achieve that, what are we waiting for?
By implementing a regular bedtime routine, not only are you likely to experience fewer tantrums and behaviour issues, but your child may feel happier too.
Have a baby who prefers your arms to the cot? Try these ‘it’s cool to sleep in your cot techniques’. If it’s not your kids’ sleep nut your own sleep that’s the problem, check out the research that looks at just how long mum’s get less sleep for!