Sorry kids, back to school means back to bedtime. One of the odd characteristics of our time is our apparent need for scientific verification of what we should know by simple common sense. Well, help now comes in the form of a research project undertaken by University College London. The bottom line—children with a fixed and consistent bedtime performed better on tests of cognitive ability.
As Sumathi Reddy of The Wall Street Journal reported, "Researchers at University College London found that when 3-year-olds have a regular bedtime they perform better on cognitive tests administered at age 7 than children whose bedtimes weren't consistent. The findings represent a new twist on an expanding body of research showing that inadequate sleep in children and adolescents hurts academic performance and overall health."
The researchers in Britain were not concerned with the amount of sleep or the time of going to bed. Their concern was the function of a consistent bedtime for children and adolescents. As they reported, having a fixed bedtime turns out to have significant cognitive advantages.
The Wall Street Journal did also report on research about the amount of sleep needed by children at different ages. As Reddy explained: "In general school-age kids—kindergarten through eighth-grade—should be getting about 10 hours of sleep, while 3- and 4-year-olds might need 11 to 13 hours, including day-time naps, said Shalini Paruthi, director of the pediatric sleep and research center at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center at Saint Louis University."
As for adolescents, research indicates that teenagers need between 8 1/2 and 9 1/4 hours on average—though many teenagers get much less sleep.
Dr. Paruthi of Saint Louis University also explained that children need about 15 minutes to transition from mental alertness to a quiet state. She recommends that parents start early with a 15 minute routine that transitions the child from wakefulness to readiness for sleep.
Of course, that is what many parents have done for years. This is the secret power of bedtime stories and the emotional closeness between parent and child as the day comes to an end. This is the perfect time for Christian parents to assure their children of God's love and care, encourage them in the Gospel, read them a Bible story, and end with a prayer together. The gift of this kind of parental care and teaching is priceless—the perfect transition to sleep.
So, if you needed scientific research to validate your instinct about bedtime, now you have it. Sorry, kids. Bedtime matters. Handled rightly by a Christian parent, it matters even more than secular researchers can understand.
Sumathi Reddy, "New Reason to Get the Kids to Bed on Time," The Wall Street Journal, Tuesday, July 20, 2013. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323971204578630342181106844.html
The data on teenagers and sleep is from The National Sleep Foundation: http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/sleep-topics/teens-and-sleep