Sleeping Child feature photo

Regular bedtime is good for your child's brain

August 20, 2013 Denise Pinkney

During the summer, it's an extra challenge to get children to bed on time, especially with the longer hours of sunlight.  But as summer draws to a close, it's time to start preparing children to get back on track with a consistent sleep schedule if they have fallen off track.

Does a regular bedtime really matter? A group of researchers from the University College London in the United Kingdom found that a regular bedtime is good for your child's brain. Children who had no set bedtime or who went to bed later than 9 p.m. had lower scores on reading and math tests than kids who went to bed earlier.

A regular bedtime is very important for young children. Three-year olds who didn't have regular bedtimes had lower scores in reading, math and spatial awareness.

How much sleep does your child need? The National Sleep Foundation says:

  • Preschoolers between 3 to 5 years old need 11 to 13 hours of sleep.
  • Kids up to age 12 need 10 to 11 hours of sleep.

"As parents, some of our most treasured moments are to gaze on our children sleeping peacefully," says Dr. Kenneth Fischer, a psychiatrist and medical director at Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota. "Sleep is one of the most important activities of a developing body, mind and spirit."

Sleep –or the lack of it—can affect your child's energy level and personality throughout the day.  And a child who sleeps poorly can cause the rest of the family to be in an unhappy situation.

Dr. Fischer recommends these tips:

  • Set a consistent bedtime and stick to it.
  • Set a consistent morning wake-up time.
  • Make your child's bedroom a calm and relaxing place.
  • Don't let TV, video or computer or other media take the place of spending time with your child at bedtime.
  • Do not give your child food (chocolate chip cookies with real chocolate) or drink before bedtime that has caffeine.