Here’s More Proof That Early Bedtimes are Good for Everyone
This morning, everyone in my household was cranky. Despite me cooking up a hearty breakfast of bacon and delicious, fluffy blueberry pancakes, it was clear that everyone woke up on the wrong side of the bed.
My eldest was snapping at the younger siblings. My husband was huffing angrily in the kitchen. And the youngest two wouldn't stop whining. In theory, we should have been having a great day. We were having an unexpected day off from school, thanks to the fact that we live in a place where it was literally too cold to send kids to school on the bus, since frostbite can set in within minutes. But as I flipped the pancakes and listened to my children bicker, I realized that I had made a grave error:
I had let my kids stay up too late last night.
And now? I was paying the price.
The truth is, I am a parent who is guilty of letting her kids stay up much too late. It's fun! I think to myself. We have a snow day tomorrow anyway! We get to spend time together!
And while those things may be true, the other side of the equation is that, 9 times out of 10, letting them stay up too late never works out well in anyone's favor the next day. The kids are grumpy and overtired and no one wants to play and they mope around all day and I find myself wondering why on earth I let them stay up again when I know better.
Contrary to my poor parenting beliefs, an early bedtime has been found time and time again to be extremely beneficial for kids.
The truth is, even science has backed the fact that kids need early bedtimes. A new study in the Journal of Pediatrics, for example, found that later bedtimes are linked to obesity later in life for preschool-aged children. Previous studies have found that late bedtimes are linked to higher rates of obesity in children, but the new study found that the effect on weight is actually long-lasting and affects how much the child will weigh as an adult too.
Overall, the study found that an early bedtime in the preschool age cut the risk of a child being obese as an adolescent by half, which is a significant finding. Oh, and in case you are wondering, an “early” bedtime was defined as anything before 8:00 PM. A “late” bedtime was defined as anything after 9:00 PM. The researchers theorized that early bedtime helped ensure children were getting adequate hours of sleep, which helped to regulate their hormones, including cortisol, which can cause the body to have excess fat. Earlier bedtime also means less chance for late-night mindless munching on bad-for-you snacks.
I have to admit that I was a tad horrified to read these findings, because in our house, bedtime has been 9 PM pretty consistently for, well, as long as I have had children, which is going on 10 years now. I have made the case for an earlier bedtime in our house for years and years, but to no avail. My husband grew up in a house where late bedtimes were the norm and he's pretty against an early bedtime. And when you have four children, bedtime takes hours anyways. So it feels downright impossible to move up our time, much as I would like to.
So it would seem like I am really missing out on some potential benefits for my kids. In addition to helping children (and adolescents) maintain healthy weights, early bedtimes are also linked with brain benefits, too. Experts at CNN noted the benefits that early bedtime can help regulate important brain mechanisms, such as repair and restoring all those neural pathways and promoting all the extensive growth that happens during the childhood years.
Bottom line? Don't be like me. Put your kids to bed by 8 PM or earlier and everyone (including you and your partner) will be happier for it. Putting your kids to bed early is not a “punishment.” It's an important act of love as a parent because you are helping them to be as healthy as they can be and giving their body the time it needs to grow and flourish.
What time do you put your kids to bed?