Irregular Bedtimes Could Be Damaging Children’s Health

What happens in the early years of a person’s life has a profound effect on how they fare later on. Thousands of research papers – many of them using the rich data in the British Birth Cohort studies – have shown that children who get a poor start in life are much more likely to experience difficulties as adults; whether that’s to do with poor health, or their ability to enjoy work and family life.

Ensuring that children get enough sleep is one of a number of ways to get them off to the best possible start in life. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that toddlers should get roughly 11 to 14 hours of sleep every day. For children aged three to five years, the recommendation is ten to 13 hours, or nine to 11 hours for children once they’re at primary school.

But the latest research carried out by our team at UCL’s International Centre for Lifecourse Studies, shows that it’s not just the amount of sleep a child gets which matters. After digging into the data from the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS) – which has followed the lives of some 20,000 children since the turn of the century – we found that having a regular bedtime also affects how they get on at home and at school, throughout the first decade of their lives.

The ‘jet lag’ effect:

To begin with, we looked at the relationship between regular and irregular bedtimes, and how the children got on in a range of cognitive tests. Parents who took part in the MCS were asked whether their children went to bed at a regular time on weekdays. Those who answered “always” or “usually” were put in the regular bedtime group, while those who answered “sometimes” or “never” were put in the irregular bedtime group.

The results were striking. Children with irregular bedtimes had lower scores on maths, reading and spatial awareness tests. In fact, the time that children went to bed had little or no effect on their basic number skills, or their ability to work with shapes. But having no set bedtime was linked to lower scores, especially for three-year-olds. The greatest dip in test results was seen in girls who had no set bedtime at their early life.

At the heart of this phenomenon is the circadian rhythm – the internal body clock, which tells you when it’s time to sleep and wake up.

If I travel from London to New York, I’m likely to be slightly ragged when I arrive, because jet lag is going to affect my cognitive abilities, appetite and emotions. If I bring one of my children with me, and I want them to do well at a maths test having just jumped across time zones, they will struggle even more than I will. If we think of the body is an instrument, then a child’s body is more prone to getting out of tune.

The same thing happens when children go to bed at 8pm one night, 10pm the next and 7pm another . Scientists sometimes call this the “social jet lag effect”. 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.

Best behavior:

As well as enhancing a child’s intellectual development, we found that regular bedtimes can also improve their behaviour.

At age seven, according to parents and teachers, children in the MCS who had irregular bedtimes were considerably more likely to have behavioural problems than their peers who had a regular bedtime. The more frequently a child had been able to go to bed at different times each night, the worse his or her behavioural problems were. In other words, the effects appeared to accumulate throughout childhood.

But we did find an important piece of good news,too: those negative effects on behaviour appeared to be reversible. Children who switched to having a regular bedtime showed improvements in their behaviour. 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.

But of course, the reverse was also true: the behaviour of children who switched from a regular to an irregular bedtime got worse.

A weighty problem:

In a follow-up study, which looked at the impact of routines (including bedtimes) on obesity, we reported that children with irregular bedtimes were more likely to be overweight, and have lower self-esteem and satisfaction with their bodies.

In fact, of all the routines we studied, an inconsistent bedtime was most strongly associated with the risk of obesity. This supports other recent findings, which show that young children who skipped breakfast and went to bed at irregular times were more likely to be obese at age 11. Even children who “usually” had a regular bedtime were 20% more likely to be obese than those who “always” went to bed at around the same time.

Clearly, the evidence shows that a regular bedtime really matters when it comes to children’s health and development, throughout that crucial first decade of their lives. Including these findings alongside recommended hours of sleep in advice for all those caring for young children could make a real difference, by helping protect children from “social jet lag” and getting them off to a flying start instead.

More information Here

New School Year and the Come back To The Routine

reloj

The lazy days of summer are coming to the end, together with the long stretches of daylight, lemonade, grilling and pick-up games outside. As the season winds down, you may take a final getaway weekend with your family. Or you may just stay home and squeeze every bit of time before school starts.

Either way, there’s a good chance that your children are off their normal sleep schedule by now. That’s completely understandable, but it’s also something that needs to be remedied before the school bell rings. So I want to help equip you to get your children back into an age-appropriate and healthy sleep routine so that they wake up bright-eyed and alert for that first day of school. It’s not really an impossible task. It just takes a little forethought and a few days to implement changes.

You can shift your child’s bedtime back to the appropriate time for school nights either gradually or in cold way, you choose. If you do it gradually, then shift it in 30-minute increments over as many days as needed. Just do the math. Most elementary school-aged children need to be in bed by 7:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. to get the sleep they need each night.

Follow these recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics for total hours of sleep per-school and school-aged kids should get by age:

  • Children 3 to 5 years of age should sleep 10 to 13 hours daily to promote optimal health. That includes naps.
  • Children 6 to 12 years of age should sleep 9 to 12 hours daily.
  • Teenagers 13 to 18 years of age should sleep 8 to 10 hours daily.

If your child shows some resistance to going to bed earlier, wake him up in the morning at his new school day wake up time. If you prefer to go cold turkey, I recommend starting this process in the morning by waking your child up at his new school day wake-up time. That evening put him in bed at the appropriate time so he can get the recommended amount of sleep after a calm bedtime routine. He will be a little more tired and willing to go to sleep at his new bedtime.

The Benefit of Physical Activity for Sleep:

Getting physical activity each day is important for our sleep. During the school year it may get pushed aside when homework piles up. As weather permits, you can take a brisk walk around the neighborhood for 30 minutes after dinner or play catch. Just be sure your child is fitting in at least 30 minutes of exercise, ideally outside. This will help her go to sleep as well as improving her physical health.

However, while rough play – like wrestling on the bed for fun – is great for some kids, bring it to an end an hour before bedtime because it naturally stimulates your child and will keep her up longer. The same goes for strenuous physical activity. Choose puzzles, building toys, reading or other quiet activities in the hour before bedtime.

Create a Soothing Bedtime Routine:

Trust me; children thrive on routine even if they resist it at times. Sometimes we jettison our routines in the summer and need to put some structure back in place as school draws near.

Your child’s evening routine actually begins at dinnertime. Young children digest their food more slowly than adults and will need to eat two hours before bedtime in order to sleep soundly. After dinner you may clean up together and do something as a family.

Structuring your school-aged child’s soothing bedtime routine can be as simple as choosing three to four things that should happen every night in the same order right before your child goes to bed. This may include a bath or shower; brushing teeth; laying out clothes, shoes and the child’s backpack for the next day; and snuggles, along with a book or a story.

Depending on their age, your child may enjoy some independent reading time before you say goodnight to him. Just be sure to brush teeth and put pajamas on before you let him start to read in bed. Show your growing child your love and affection with snuggles, hugs and kisses. Turn off the light at bedtime and say goodnight.

The idea is to find a routine that suits your family and stick to it. Of course you will change it as your child grows, but don’t change it every week.

Make sure your kids are well-rested for the start of the school year so they can perform at their best.

Monitor Obsession

monitor.jpg

The video monitor can be the amazing invention that has allowed us to go from simply hearing our children cry through a static-filled speaker to watching them sleep. Except we mostly watch them be awake, roll around babble, complain, and cry.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of the video monitor, but I believe they severely impede many parents’ sleep training efforts.

Simply put, video monitors allow custodians to see and know too much during the sleep coaching process. Sure, some people are able to work on sleep and not sit and watch the monitor for every little peep, movement or simply to obsess about how long it is taking their child to soothe him/her to sleep, but most are far too invested in the outcome of every sleep. Their anxiety doesn’t allow them to look or walk away; I can admit has happened to me.

The challenge emerges when the anxiety that causes a parent or caretaker to stare at the monitor also results in over responding or having a “rescue response” to every little peep or movement. Too often, well-meaning parents see their baby have a brief awakening during naps at around 40 to 45 minutes and it results in the parent jumping up and going in to get their child.

The issue here is that a partial arousal at 40 to 45 minutes, after one sleep cycle, is completely normal. Without a super high quality speaker or video monitor, most parents wouldn’t even realize their baby is waking up and the baby would very likely put him/herself back to sleep in a few moments. By responding to the arousal, parents are unwittingly preventing sleep consolidation.

So what can you do if you find yourself watching the video monitor obsessively or jumping up at every peep coming from the speaker? First, work on putting our baby down drowsy but awake. Babies that put themselves to sleep to start are far more successful at putting themselves back to sleep between cycles.

When your baby has an arousal tries to take a breath and wait a few minutes before going to your child. Babies often wake up briefly between sleep cycles. They also make a LOT of sleep noises. These noises range from grunting to whining to crying. This doesn’t mean they are fully or even ready to be awake.

Many babies experience something called sleep cries. These cries can be intense and some parents assume their child is in pain or in distress and immediately attend to their child. However, the child is often still asleep! The crying usually passes in about five minutes then reduces to whining and fussing. By minute 10 the child is often sleeping soundly again. If your child experiences these sleep cries he/she is likely over tired.

It’s important to allow babies to work through sleep cries as rescue responding will result in fully awakening the child, causing inadequate naps or creating a night waking scenario. When parents repeatedly rescue respond to partial stimulation or sleep cries they inadvertently create habitual waking.

Just remember that partial  stimulation in sleep are to be expected and allowing your child the time to practice the skill of self-soothing will go a long way in your effort toward healthy, consolidated sleep.

So if you’re sitting in front of your video monitor instead of taking a shower, calling your best friend or taking your own nap, please consider an audio monitor during sleep training periods. You may find that you see better, faster results with far less energy and anxiety expended.

Original post from Sleepy Bye Family
This page contains affiliate links and I earn a commission if you shop through them. Prices won’t be effected.