Of all the things I loved as a kid, having to go to sleep super early was not one of them.
Today, I consider it an accomplishment if I get to bed before 12. But when I was a kid? No later than 9 was the rule.
And while I spent many a night grumpily bemoaning that curfew, today I’ve realized it wasn’t so bad. In fact, it was actually quite good.
Yeah, I’m sure my parents loved the alone time (shudder) but it was good for me too!
You see, those early bedtimes provided me with a number of health benefits that I took for granted at the time.
And while the world has changed quite a bit since my childhood with the invention of selfie sticks and virtual reality, the benefits of an early bedtime can still be reaped by children today!
Benefit #1 – Faster Sleep Time
You might think that the longer kids stay up, the more tired they get and the faster they’ll fall asleep.
Not quite, actually.
A number of studies have shown that the later kids get to bed, the longer it takes for them to start snoozing. As a result, kids who get to bed before 9 wind up sleeping 78 minutes longer than those who get to bed later.
They’re also far less likely to wake up in the middle of the night.
And why is that of concern? I’ll tell ya why…
Benefit #2 – Growth Hormones
“When a child sleeps is probably as important or maybe more important as how much,” says pediatrician Marc Weissbluth.
Long before your child is a teenager, hormones are already playing a major role in their development.
You see, your child’s growth is largely dependent on the secretion of a hormone aptly called ‘human growth hormone.’
The secretion of this hormone peaks at 10 P.M., again at midnight and then once more at 2 A.M. But here’s the catch – this process doesn’t work properly unless your child is sleeping at those times.
Laying in bed, awake, at 10 isn’t good enough – they need to be in full REM sleep.
Benefit #3 – Productivity
So we know that kids who get to bed before 9 get more, better sleep. We also know that helps with their growth.
But here’s a third benefit:
They’ll be more productive! Which parent doesn’t want that?
As reported by Parents.com, kids who get a better rest have a better attention span and can perform better in school.
“The symptoms of sleep deprivation and ADHD, including impulsivity and distractibility, mirror each other almost exactly,” says Dr. Judith Owens, director of sleep medicine at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington.
How To Get Your Kids To Bed Early
Of course, all these tips are useless if your kid refuses to hop into bed before 9. And believe me – if they’re anything like I was as a kid, they will refuse.
Here are a few tips to get around that:
- Practice what you preach! Don’t just send your kid off to bed and then torture them with sounds of the television or chatter between you and your partner. Get ready for bed yourself! Even if you’re reading quietly in your room, this will set an example for your kids and show them that they need to wind down.
- Work out some sort of bedtime ritual. Does your child have a favorite book? Read a chapter of it to them before bed. They’ll begin to look forward to those reading sessions and, by association, sleep.
- Get your child to turn off their screens at least two hours before bed. The blue light emitted by screens makes it very difficult to fall asleep. Turning them off before bed will help your child’s brain produce melatonin – the hormone that signals bedtime.