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Why Bedtime Matters: New Pediatrics Study

Sure, you’ve heard that kids need a bedtime. But you also live in the real world—the world full of lessons, homework, television, smartphones, and late nights that get later. Maybe you never quite got bedtime back on track this school year. Maybe bedtime’s been getting later for some time, and you’ve barely noticed.

Here’s why you should: letting bedtime slide—even a little—makes kids more restless, less alert, and more emotionally volatile. A new study published in Pediatrics shows that just 27 minutes of extra sleep is enough to noticeably change children’s behavior for the better and help them handle challenges at school. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the study found that children who added just 27 minutes of sleep per night showed “significant improvement in their ability to regulate their emotions, including limiting restless-impulsive behavior in school.” Slashing nightly sleep by 54 minutes had the reverse effect: children in the study who slept less were less attentive, more sleepy, and showed less emotional regulation. (Behavior was reported by teachers, who had no knowledge of which children slept more and which slept less.)

School-age children need 10-11 hours of sleep per night, which works out to a bedtime of 8 or 9 p.m. if kids need to be awake by 7. Teens need about 9.25 hours per night (in a bedroom free of smartphones or laptops, which have been shown to keep them awake or stuck in restless, poor-quality sleep at night).

If bedtime needs a reboot, check out my post Eight Tips for a Better Bedtime. Kids too old for bedtime stories? Next week, I’ll feature tips on creating a bedtime for teens and grade-schoolers.

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Need more sleep? My e-book Ready, Set, Sleep: 50 Ways to Help Your Child Sleep So You Can Sleep Too is chock-full of mom-tested solutions to help babies and toddlers start sleeping well, tonight!

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