Steady bedtimes bring better functioning

Steady bedtimes bring better functioning

As a parent, the biggest struggle of your day may come right at the end. Few toddlers, preschoolers or young school-age children want to go to bed. That goes double if they have older siblings who stay awake later.

Findings from a new study published in the journal Pediatrics suggest that standing strong through this epic battle pays off. Children who have regular bedtimes tend to function better. Snoozing on a schedule cuts down on many types of poor conduct, from hyperactivity to trouble getting along with peers.

The bedtime-behavior link

“Growing bodies and brains – including regions that control social habits – need sleep to develop properly,” says Carolyn Ievers-Landis, PhD, Licensed Clinical Psychologist at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital. “Regular bedtimes increase the odds your child will get a good night’s rest.”

While adults can get by on seven to eight hours:

  • Newborns sleep between 10 to 18 hours per day
  • Infants require nine to 12 hours at night, plus naps
  • Toddlers should get 12 to 14 hours total each day
  • Preschoolers can skip naps but should snooze 11 to 13 hours per night
  • Young school-age children need about 10 or 11 hours

In addition, consistent sleep patterns keep children’s natural rhythms intact. “Their internal clocks crave routine and have difficulty adapting to constant shifts,” says Dr. Ievers-Landis, who specializes in behavioral sleep medicine and is the only Northeast Ohio pediatric provider certified by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. “That is another reason irregular bedtimes can lead to acting out.”

Help the sandman arrive on time

In the study, the benefits added up over the years. Children who had regular bedtimes from ages 3 to 7 functioned the best. But do not despair if you currently follow a more flexible timetable. Starting a schedule at any time improved children’s emotional and behavioral functioning.

Dr. Ievers-Landis offers these suggestions on how to develop a schedule for your child:

  • Keep a similar bedtime for young children each night during the week. Pick a bedtime that allows your child to get adequate rest. It is also important that your child should be able to fall asleep within 20 – 30 minutes. If it is taking longer than that, your child may be experiencing symptoms of insomnia or may need a little bit less sleep. Try putting him or her to bed a little later and slowly moving the bedtime back by 15 minutes every few nights.
  • Develop a calming and predictable nighttime ritual. For example, you might start with a bath, then tooth-brushing, then a story or song. After age 1, allow your child to take a favorite blanket, doll or stuffed animal to bed.
  • As children get older, offer them options – for instance, a choice between two books or songs. “But keep things contained,” advises Dr. Ievers-Landis. “The entire bedtime process should last no more than approximately 30 minutes.”
  • Banish electronics from the bedroom. In another recent study, having a TV or computer nearby interfered with children’s rest.

“If your child strongly resists sleep, wakes up frequently at night or has frequent behavioral problems during the daytime, talk with your pediatrician,” says Dr. Ievers-Landis. “Your child might have a sleep disorder that could improve with treatment.”

Specialized care, close to home

Dr. Ievers-Landis is the only pediatric behavioral sleep medicine provider in Northeast Ohio certified by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. She specializes in treating infants (6 months and older), children/adolescents and young adults (up to age 24) who have:

  • Insomnia
  • Circadian rhythm disorders
  • Nightmares
  • Autism, ADHD or other issues
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Chronic illnesses

Dr. Ievers-Landis has office locations in Cleveland, Mayfield Heights, Medina, Solon and Westlake. For appointments, call 216-844-7700. For more information about the Pediatric Sleep Center, visit RainbowBabies.org/Sleep.

Carolyn Ievers-Landis

CAROLYN IEVERS-LANDIS, PhD
Licensed Clinical Psychologist, UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital
Associate Professor, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine

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