Why bedtime battles are worth winning
It’s one of the many things about parenting that fails to live up to its depiction in sickly sweet television commercials.
Just as dinner time is more likely to involve tears and tantrums than smiling toddlers happily devouring every morsel of good food prepared by mum, bedtime is rarely about sweet dreams and lullabies and more often features numerous trips to the toilet, pleas for “just one more story” and fears of monsters in the wardrobe. Well, it does in our house anyway.
Now, thanks to new research, tired parents like me who struggle to get their pre-schoolers to sleep at the same time every night have something else to worry about.
Regular bedtimes help learning
The UK study, released this week and published in the British Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, reveals irregular bedtimes in early childhood may lead to poor academic performance in later life.
Researchers noted the bedtimes of 11,000 children at the ages of three, five and seven and compared the data to the children’s performance in a range of tests.
They found irregular bedtimes at three years of age were associated with lower reading, maths and spatial awareness scores for all children. Girls who had irregular bedtimes at all three study ages had significantly lower reading, maths and spatial awareness scores than girls who had had regular bedtimes. Boys only had to have irregular bedtimes at two of the study ages in order to perform poorly compared to their regular bedtime peers.
“Sleep has a crucial and complex role in the maintenance of health and optimal function,” the study authors wrote. “Inconsistent bedtime schedules might impact on markers of cognitive development in two ways via disruption to the circadian rhythms and/or sleep deprivation and associated effects on brain plasticity.”
We’re all in this together
But, despite the economic and academics costs of our children’s lack of sleep, don’t be too hard on yourself if your little ones fail to drift off into dreamland exactly when they are supposed to, because the fact is you are not alone.
After all there is a reason US author and frustrated dad Adam Mansbach’s book for parents, Go the F*** to Sleep was a worldwide best seller when released two years ago and was translated into several languages. The politically incorrect book was a hit because it united exhausted mums and dads around the globe.
In a perfect world the new UK study would help youngsters understand going to bed on time is the best thing for their future.
Unfortunately the world’s not perfect, and trying to explain to a three-year-old they need the lights out by 7pm so they will be able to top the class in years to come would probably be about as effective as telling them to eat carrots because it’s good for their eyesight.
This article was written by Letitia Rowlands for Kidspot.com.au and has been adapted for Kidspot.co.nz