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Getting Enough Sleep Could Make Kids Smarter

By , SparkPeople Blogger
My kids have always been pretty good about going to bed when I tell them it's time. I'm someone who likes to stick to a schedule, so we stay consistent with bedtimes (although what time they get up and how long they nap is a totally different story.) My friends who don't have kids and my relatives with grown children don't understand (or have forgotten) why I can't be a little more flexible. The bedtime routine is so important in my house because if my kids don't get enough sleep, the effects are felt for days to come. New research shows that sticking to a schedule and getting enough sleep could give young children a developmental boost.

Parents were interviewed for this study when their children were 9 months old, and then again at 4 years old. According to researchers, "Kids who had a consistent bedtime at the age of 4 scored higher on a number of tests, including some that measured literacy and math abilities. Earlier bedtimes and parental rules about keeping bedtime routines also were associated with higher scores on developmental measures." The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that preschool children get at least 11 hours of sleep each night.

I have friends who let their children decide when to go to bed. Admittedly, most of these friends are a lot more laid back than I am and have more children than I do. It seems to work well for them, but for many people I know that have young children, sleep is an issue. What has your experience been like?

Do your children have a consistent bedtime? Do they get enough sleep? Is (or was) the issue of sleep a struggle in your house? Are you surprised that sleep could be this important to the development of little ones?

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I have found that if the kids get to bed early enough so they don't have to wait to me or an alarm clock, things go much smoother. Report
My son is eight months old and has been on a sleep routine since he was around 3 months. When he doesn't take his regular naps, he's a nightmare. I completely agree with the studies showing how important regular sleep is. My mother works midnights and is turning 55 this year. It is a nightmare on her health and overall wellness. Report
I'm an elementary teacher, and I firmly believe in the power of sleep. Students who have a regular bedtime AND get 9 to 10 hours sleep are able to learn more and to reason through "the hard stuff" they are learning. In addition, they develop better strategies for dealing with peer pressure and other stressful issues. Frankly, I'm amazed at how many professional families allow their young children to stay up until 10 and 11 PM. Report
Both my children have always had a strict bedtime routine, and I must say that they were never hard to put to bed because they knew what to expect. The routine makes them feel safe, they fall alseep faster and wake up rested in the morning. This definiitely works for me! Report
I've definately noticed my 4yo's behavior is tougher to work with the less sleep she gets. My fiance is gung ho about staying on a consistent schedule, i need to be better about it!!!!!! Report
I agree, routine is key for so many reasons! I can definately see a big difference in my kids when they didn't get enough sleep! Bed times are a MUST in our house! Report
as a professinal nanny I can't agree more on sleep time and keeping things simple....however my current child sleeps about 14-15 hrs a day (she's 2) and I wonder if too much sleep is just as bad as to little.... Report
I have four kids (one biological and three step). They are all teenagers now, but they still have set bedtimes, which we try to keep routine. On school nights, the twin 6th graders go to bed at 8:30; the freshman in high school goes to bed at 10, and the college student - who knows?! During summer and weekends, the 6th graders go to bed at 9; the freshman gets kicked off the computer at 10 and encouraged to go to her room (hopefully she falls asleep before midnight), and the college student actually goes to bed by 10 (she has a regular job in the summer now)!

I have always touted bedtime routines as important in our house b/c I believe that getting enough rest also helps keep the immune system strong. I think that when we get overtired, we are more susceptible to illness. My kids are very healthy, and even though they complain that they "go to bed earlier than ANYONE else in their class" (LOL! I doubt it!!), I still insist on them getting plenty of sleep. It was easier when they were in grade school, b/c they would sleep 10-11 hours a night. Now, I'm lucky if they get 8-9 hours. I believe that teenagers need just as much, if not MORE sleep than young children, b/c their brains are developing quite a bit at this age. So I always talk to them about the importance of lots of rest. Report
Without our schedule my family is lost! We all need our sleep and, and if we miss it we are not happy campers. Report
I am a stickler for bedtime with our 7 year old! When she was a baby she went to be by 6:30 or so. She was a fabulous sleeper as an infant which was nice for Mom and Dad. Now, during the school year, bedtime is 8:00. She gets up early and is always grateful for bed, even if she doesn't say it. Even in the summer we try to stick to 9:00 as bedtime. It's a bit more difficult because our neighbor's kids are playing outside until 10:00 or so, but we make it happen. It gives us a little quiet time, too, which is important! Report
Having a set bedtime really helped with discipline for my step-sons. If they mis-behaved, we'd knock half an hour off their official bedtime. This was pretty simple yet effective -- they HATED it! ha ha. This let each day be a new day. I think one of them ended up in danger of missing supper, he lost so many half-hours. I don't remember what the first infraction was that day, but I'm sure most of the half-hours came from talking back after he lost the first half hour. He did get supper, and never went to bed that early again. They've grown into nice young men. Report
My 4 year old has always been a good sleeper; I just struggle keeping him to a sleep routine this time of year when it stays lighter, longer. He wants to keep going, so bedtime isn't always easy, but I try to get him in bed by 8:30. If I don't, he's a little crankpot in the morning! Winter is so much easier... Report
The number of kids you have is irrelevant; I have 5 kids and we stick to bedtime at our house! In the summer when school is out, we ease up a bit, but no one here is usually up past 9:30pm. Report
I believe it is cruelty to children not to have them on regular sleeping habits. I raised three children and rarely ever told one it was time to go to bed. They knew it was and went voluntarily. As a retired teacher in elementary schools, I could spot those kids who stayed up too late! Report
I agree 100%. We always had our children in bed by 6:00 where ever we were and they had about 12 hours of sleep. As they became older their bedtimes were extended but they were still getting 8 to 10 hours of sleep by the time they started highschool. It was difficult at times because some parents were letting their children stay up much later than ours but we knew the importance of sleep. Our children did well in school and are always pleasant to be around. Report
I have nieces that visit me. The parents complain they can't get the kids to bed on time. But when they are with me they are in bed by 7:30 or 8:00 pm and that means quiet time for at least a half hour to an hour prior to bedtime (reading talking even a nature show if one is on). This makes them much more pleasant to be around the next day. They aren't tired and crabby. Although when they visit druing the week for supper - the attitudes and crabbiness are almost unbearable. The parents can't see the need for consistency I feel bad for the kids. I also have recently heard when my brother is out of town my sister in law allows one kid per night to sleep with her. They are 7 and 5 - bad habit to start with them as the kids argue and fight about who sleeps with mama and the dark circles under their eyes is sad to see. I also taught K-12 art classes for a few years and I agree with many of you. You can tell who got sleep at night and who didn't. Blessings to all raising these children as it isn't just the parents it is the entire village that cares and is participanting. Report
Yes, indeedy. As a kindergarten teacher of 18 years I know who gets enough sleep and who doesn't. I had one this year who would literally fall asleep in his seat everyday. He fell asleep one day during an end of the year reading assessment. His score was less than stellar. His parents didn't see any correlation though between his "fall alseep on the floor" bedtime at home and his academic performance. Report
As a retired teacher of 35 years, I can tell you how true this study us! I could always tell the students in my elementary school classes who didn't get enough sleep. They couldn't pay attention in class and some had behavior problems because they were tired and cranky by the end of the school day. As a parent, we always had a consistent schedule for our daughter. I salute all of the parents who've responded here who see the importance of the adults making some decisions and sticking by their rules. Your children will grow up to be productive, self-motivated citizens. Thank you for caring enough about your kids to set some boundaries! Report
From the time my girls were little, I had a set time every night to get them in bed and I would read to them. This made lying in bed something to look forward to. Reading to children is vital even from 1 years of age. Its also a time to get their brains to quieten down and there is no drama when the light goes off. I read to them up until they were in 6th grade. They are in their 20's now, at university, are still good sleepers and readers. too Report
My 6 month old goes to bed at 7p every night, no matter where we are at, lol. My 2 year old has a 8p bedtime...however after we put her to bed we have trouble with her playing until 9 or 10p. Even when we remove all the books and toys she still just lays in bed and talks. We've tried additional exercise and redirection and it still doesn't work. Any suggestions ??? Feel free to send me spark mail with ideas, we're open at this point, lol!! Report
I have an 8y.o niece and her mother is so inconsistent with a sleeping schedule, but I've noticed that when she's with me and I put her on a schedule, she does much better in the mornings and comes back from school in a better mood. I think it's not just having enough sleep that matters, but having a consistent schedule. Report
Consistent bedtime - Absolutely!! It is smart practice for the entire household! I would not have it any other way.

Everyone as their own biological clocks so I think it's inconceivable to expect everyone to adhere to the same schedule. Studies show that as children become teenagers, their internal clocks change. I have read about school systems that have considered changing their schedules to accomodate the sleep patterns of teens but have encountered economic issues with it. Fortunately, some colleges are listening to the studies and adapting. Report
I see very young kids all the time, up WAY past a good bedtime hour. My mom used to put us to bed by the TIME on the clock, I remember being in bed while the sun was still up. HATED that....but it was good for me! Can't say it made me any smarter however! Report
Consistent bedtime - Absolutely!! It is smart practice for the entire household! Report
Ok, but what do you do with a natural night owl? Seriously, my youngest has stayed up and slept in since he was a baby! I remember nursing him as a baby, after my husband had already gone asleep, and I was so frustrated, but he needed a lot more time to wind down and go to sleep.

(note: he also was standing at 4 months, walking at 10 months, and, at age 8, is an advanced reader and gets straight A's at school---he's just the Eveready Bunny!)

The rest of us (my husband, older son, me) are happy to curl up in bed with a book and sleep from 9-6 (son) or 12-8 (parents), but Eveready Son can't shut it down. It is a CHALLENGE. Report
I believe in a set bedtime. During school my children are in bed by 8:30-9:00. During summer I usually let them stay up a little later. I have an 8 yr old and a 15yr old. I have to set the same time bedtime for both children, even through the older one would like to stay up later. They both seem to do better in school, and function better doing everyday activites if they have gotten 8 or more hours of sleep. It helps Mom too. Report
My kids are now grown however when they were small sleep was very important. I had a routine and hardly ever deviated from it. But when I did the effects were felt for at least a week. I believe 100 % that children should have a bedtime and it should be used. The bedtime is not only for the child but also for the parents, we need quiet time too. Report
Our 6yo dd has always been on a sleep has been a huge benefit to her AND to her daddy and I. She gets the sleep she needs and we get some alone time (or together time) :) You can't go wrong with more sleep! Report
We are GIANT believers in our 2 & 3 year olds getting consistent and lengthy sleep. Not only does it help me because they are in such better moods for it but it allows my husband and I to get the evenings to ourselves again!! Report
My three year old sleeps 10 - 11 hours a day. He does not have a set bedtime because he is at home with my husband. My six year daughter is asleep by 10pm at the latest, during the summer, and is up around 7:30 everyday. School has really regulated her sleep pattern. I hope my son will change too when he goes to school. Report
My kids have always been good have I until lately. Now that they are teenagers I swear they sleep 12 hours lol Report
Children needs structure and consistentency in their daily routine - it helps make them feel secure and loved. Good for you for keeping a routine. The ability for a young child to understand a routine and know when their parents tell them something is going to happen will pay dividends when they are teenagers and test the limits. Report
Well ,read comments and its good to see most put children on schedule,after all whos the grownup.I look back and just think ,tough love,for it is the parent who should know whats best for the child ,not the other way around.Amen Report
My three year old has a strict bedtime of 7:30/ 8:00pm. He sleeps until 7:30/8:00 am every morning. My one year old daughter on the other hand won't go to sleep until 9/10/ or 11. The longer the nap the less likely that she will go to sleep for me. I went thought this will my son and as he got a little older we were able to get him on a regular bedtime. I know that with my daughter it will take a little bit more time but we will get there. I had a regular bedtime as a child and firmly believe that children need regular bedtimes so that there bodies can rest and grow and be smarter. Report
My husband and I try to be very cosistent with our two kids, ages three and one, where bedtime is concerned. Sometimes our schedule doesn't allow for the timeliness that I would prefer on every night, but that consistency is key for my kids to enjoy their day. As Jen mentioned in her blog, trouble from relatives about a lack of flexibility with the bedtime schedule is a problem we deal with, as well. When we visit my husband's family (They're only a short distance away.), we always have issues with the way that they over-plan. As a result, my kids aren't able to enjoy the time they have with their grandparents, and then we aren't able to enjoy the trip, due to dealing with cranky toddlers. Report
My son has a consistent bed time and has since he was a baby, however he has never gotten 11 hrs in a night, maybe over an entire day when he took naps but never at night. From the first when he started sleeping through the night he would sleep for 8 hrs on the dot and wake up. Now he will sleep 9 hrs but never more than that unless he's sick. However he did very well on his kindy screening so I'd say there is some leeway in total time sleeping as dependent upon individual child. Report
I tried to always have my children in their rooms at 10 pm. I have worked retail for many years and that seemed to work best for us. They didn't have an early day when they were small so the bedtime stayed as they got older and as they grew up. Today they are both back at home because of the economy and they still try to be home and in their rooms at 10. Report
Our grandsons sleep pattern is so bizzare he goes without sleep for days. He will noy have the lights out so he does not go to sleep. As a grandparent there is little I can do about the situation but it really does disturb DH and myself Pat in Maine. Report
We keep to a routine even for the weekends - however, for summer we let them stay up 30 minutes later as we know they can sleep in 30 minutes later in the morning (so it's a shift though the total number of hours slept is the same. For ages 5 & 7, the kids are averaging about 10 hours of sleep nightly. Report
I've always been pretty strict about bedtimes for my 6 & 9 year olds, only letting them stay up an extra 30 mins. on weekend nights. Whenever we break this rule, we have a hard time gettting them to bed on Sunday, and we all seem to suffer for it on Monday.

Comments my mom makes suggest she thinks I'm a little too rigid, but then she comments on my 7 year old neice not having a bedtime -- almost feels like we can't win. Report
The way I look at it is that all children should have a routine growning up. That way when they get out into the real world, they will have a more organized way of living. I don't believe that a child should just be able to go to bed when they want to. If that was case, my child wouldn't go to sleep until all hours of the morning. I realize that some parents are more laid back and it works for them, but I don't think they will see the affects of this until later on down the road. I believe in this survey because my son has scored high in his reading and math tests all throughout grade school. I have always stuck with a consistant bed time routine. I believe it works! Report
When the kids were little, our evening was dedicated to completing the day. We both worked fulltime so our evenings were short. We could not function without bedtime being a set time in our routine. It was very important to get the kids to bed at a certain time so we could work on getting the next day started. The oldest boy resisted bed time big time. He was not interested in sleep. Naps were the same way. Stories helped him until he could read for himself. We taught him to pick out a book to spend some quiet time with. It helped him wind down. He did not start sleeping until he was 16 years old! Then we had to check on him to make sure he was okay. That was never the case when he was younger. The youngest boy was the total opposite. All you had to do was mention bed and he would literally disappear. We would find him in bed sleeping. Both boys were above average students. They had sport activities after school. We did not have cable TV so TV did not interfere with their homework. Our routine may have appeared restrictive, but they did well with the routine. Outside the routine, we all suffered because we lost the quiet of the evening and sleep. Report
We start the bedtime snack and reading at 8 with the intent of getting them all into bed by 8:30 / 8:45 (ages 7, 10, 11). The older kids are permitted to read for 1/2 hour and then it's lights out. It's a wonderful routine and the nights we can't follow it, we all pay the next day! Report
I have been pretty strict about bed times with my children, but have eased a bit as they get older and during the summer and weekends when we don't have to get up in the mornings. I was always amazed at the neighbors children (aged around 5-7 at the time) playing outside until around 9pm on a school night when my son's bed time up to age 6 was 7, then 7:30 at 7 and I moved it to 8-8:30 this year. My kids need their sleep (especially my son who seems to need a lot more than my daughter) and I notice a difference when they don't get it. I had friends who didn't have set bed times and they were always complaining about having to go in to sleep with their kids in the night, or had them sleep with them, so noone got a good night's sleep. Maybe I'm just selfish for wanting a good night's sleep myself! Report
My son is 7 and his bed time is 8:30 but I must admit that week-ends are a different story. I need to improve on setting a bed time on week-ends because he often sets his own time. After reading this article I am sure to change this practice on the wee-ends Report
y son is 7 and his bed time is 8:30 but I must admit that week-ends are a different story. I need to improve on setting a bed time on week-ends because he often sets his own time. After reading this article I am sure to change this practice on the wee-ends Report
I am that mean mom who always put my kids to bed early no matter what was going one. They didn't see fireworks until they were nearly 7 years old because they were always asleep before it was dark enough. Mainly this was because my kids are all early risers. They are up by 6 no matter what time they go to bed, so the only way to for them to get enough sleep is to go down early. As they have gotten older I have become a bit more flexible, but it has to be a really special occasion. Report
I 've always been one of those flexible mom's that is a night owl myself, but when I let my son drop out of regular school, and started to teach him at home, i noticed a real difference. Letting him sleep in, he was more cooperative, happier, and nicer, not to mention he started doing so much better with school, even if it was at home. Getting the proper amount of sleep made a world of difference, no matter what time it is! Report
My kids have a set routine and timeframe for bedtime. We usually start the bath routine around 7:00 and they're both done by 7:30 and then it's time to brush teeth and hair and listen to a couple (sometimes 3) books and into bed by 8:00. On the weekends or special occasions we are a little more flexible, but they are good sleepers and usually wake up happy. They are both early risers- sometimes as early as 6:00- but my youngest gets a nap and my oldest has a rest time when they get up that early! They averge about 10-11 hours of sleep each night and I do honestly think it benefits them. I had a set bedtime as a child and my husband is glad I did because he sees the importance now that we have kids. He never had a routine. We started the routines with our children when they were infants and did our best to stay consistent (I think it's paid off!), even though our son was MUCH more difficult than our daughter. All in all, though, I believe their routine and habits help them and they thrive on the routine because of the security it provides. Report
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