Why Your Kids Need a Consistent Bedtime Routine
Everyone needs a good night’s rest, but for kids it’s especially important. Sleep plays an important role in kids’ mental and physical development. Well-rested kids behave better and are more focused during the day. Yet, too many kids are sleep-deprived today—often despite the best efforts of their parents and nannies.
Read on to learn why sleep is so important for kids and for tips on how to make sure they get enough.
The Rise of Screens
“I watched TV when I was a kid, and I turned out fine.” It’s one of the most common refrains doctors hear when advising parents to limit their kids’ screen time—but there’s a big difference between TV decades ago and the devices of today.
Blue light from smartphones and tablets interferes with melatonin, a hormone that tells our body it’s time to sleep. The more time kids spend on these devices, the less sleep they get.1
Games and social media are also sleep-killers. Both are designed to keep users playing/scrolling. In short, they’re built to be addictive.2
How Much Sleep Do Kids Need?
If your eight-year-old falls asleep mid-conversation or your teen dozes off during class, don’t assume it’s laziness or lack of motivation. More likely it’s a sign they’re not getting enough sleep.
Kids need more shut-eye than you might realize. Here’s what the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends, by age:
- Infants under 1 year: 12-16 hours
- Children 1-2 years old: 11-14 hours
- Children 3-5 years old: 10-13 hours
- Children 6-12 years old: 9-12 hours
- Teenagers 13-18 years old: 8-10 hours
How Much Sleep Are Kids Actually Getting?
A study published in the journal Sleep (a publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine) found that kids in all age ranges weren’t getting enough sleep.3 The study, which was a meta-analysis of 79 studies of children and teens, also found that many kids were making up for weekday sleep shortages on weekends.
|Age range||Actual sleep (per study)||Recommended ranges|
|3-5-year olds||9.68 hrs||10-13 hrs|
|6-8-year olds||8.98 hrs||9-11 hrs|
|9-11-year olds||8.85 hrs||9-11 hrs|
|12-14-year olds||8.05 hrs||9-11 hrs|
|15-18-year olds||7.40 hrs||8-10 hrs|
The Far-Reaching Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Kids’ Health
Kids who don’t get enough sleep are more irritable and less focused, but the long-term health effects of chronic sleep deprivation are worse.4
Kids who are sleep-deprived have a higher chance of being overweight or obese, and they have a higher risk of developing high blood pressure. They’re also more prone to acting impulsively, taking risks (especially as teens), and more likely to have suicidal thoughts.4
Not getting enough sleep interferes with the brain’s ability to remember and consolidate information, and it kills your attention span. The link between a lack of sleep and a poor attention span has led some researchers to hypothesize that ADHD may be a circadian rhythm disturbance.5
They say lack of sleep at night can cause many of the same symptoms as ADHD, including impulsivity, inattention, and problems with emotional regulation. The researchers worry that some doctors may be misdiagnosing ADHD and putting kids on medications when the real culprit is a lack of sleep. If your child has sleep issues and is showing signs of ADHD, talk with their pediatrician.
Modern Life Means Later Bedtimes
It’s not just adults who suffer from the fast pace of modern life. Our culture tends to treat sleep as if it’s optional, and this trickles down to our kids.
Parents’ workdays have gotten progressively longer, and so have their commutes. This affects kids’ afterschool schedules. When mom and dad get home later, dinner time, homework time, and bedtime all tend to get pushed forward.
More kids than ever are also attending daycare, preschool, and kindergarten these days. Those who do almost always get fewer naps. More kids than ever have extracurricular activities before and after school. In short, many kids today are overscheduled and sleep-deprived.
There’s only so much you can do to manage your schedule, and there’s little you can do about things that are out of your control like traffic and long commutes. Here’s what you can do.
Establish a Bedtime Routine for Your Kids
Ideally, your kids’ bedtime routine will start at the same time each night (with some variation by season). At least an hour or two before bedtime, start to wind things down by:
- Turning off screens/electronic devices
- Dimming the lights
- Giving the kids a warm bath
- Changing kids into pajamas
- Brushing teeth
- Reading a short book
- Giving kisses/snuggles
- Tucking kids into bed
- Lights out
Your sleep matters, too. If you have a young child who wakes up before you, encourage them to play quietly in their room until you’re up or until your live-out nanny arrives.
Find the Right Bedtime
The right bedtime for your child depends on their age. If your child is in school, you can work backward from the time you need to be out the door in the morning.
As a general rule, though, kids under age nine should go to bed an hour or two after dinner, usually around 7:30 or 8 p.m. Studies show that children who go to bed late (after 9 p.m.) have more behavioral problems than those who fall asleep earlier.
Signs of drowsiness like eye rubbing, fussiness, staring, or yawning mean it’s time for bed.
Consistency Is Key
Consistent bedtime routines are important for the psychological and emotional well-being of both kids and parents. A U.K. study found that kids who had consistent bedtime routines that included things like brushing teeth and reading a book had fewer behavioral problems and were better prepared for school than kids without consistent routines.6 Parents also had lower levels of anxiety, anger, and fatigue.
A scheduled bedtime helps kids with self-discipline, which, in turn, helps them function better at home, at school, and in the community. This is a win-win for parents.
Bedtime doesn’t have to be fraught with fighting and tantrums. It should be the opposite—a time of connection. However, it’s not always easy to establish a routine, especially if you haven’t had one until now.
Talk with your child’s pediatrician about establishing a nighttime routine if you’re having trouble.
Also, consider enlisting the help of a nanny experienced at working with young children. Staffing at Tiffanie’s is an established nanny services agency. We can help you find a qualified live-in or live-out nanny in your area—contact us to find a nanny today.