sleeping baby We all know the benefits of a good night’s sleep. But a new study shows that giving your child a regular bedtime actually helps brain development.

According to a long-term study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, children who had regular bedtimes as toddlers fared better on cognitive tests when they reached the age of 7. These children scored better in math, reading and spatial relations.

The actual time that children went to sleep didn’t matter as much as consistency — whether children were put to bed later or earlier, as long as they went to bed around the same time each night, they experienced better academic performance in later tests.

The researchers theorized that the inconsistent bedtimes may disrupt a child’s natural circadian rhythms (the biological clocks in our bodies) and harm cognitive development.

How much sleep do children need?

Toddlers need an average of 12 to14 hours of sleep. This amount decreases as children get older. Preschoolers require 11 to 13 hours of sleep per night and school-age children need 10 to 11 hours. Here’s what you can do to help your children have a consistent bedtime.

  • Establish a regular bedtime routine and stick to it as much as possible, even on weekends.
  • Make bedtime a calm, relaxing time. Encourage reading, a warm bath or quiet play before bed.
  • Keep electronics and televisions out of your children’s rooms because they can disrupt sleep.
  • Try to have your children finish eating two to three hours before bedtime, and don’t give them sodas or drinks with caffeine.

Contributed by: Patrick S. Pasquariello, MD

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