It’s not long before school’s out for children across the country this winter, and whether they’re going jet-setting for break or keeping up with local activities, making sure that they get adequate sleep during this time is a top priority for several parents.
If you’re a parent, it might be hard to decide whether or not to keep your child on the same sleep regimen they have during school nights or to relax a few rules while they indulge in some holiday fun. If you choose the former, new research might just be on your side, as a recent review of sleep studies from the University of British Columbia (UBC) suggest that structured bedtime routines are better for children throughout the year.
This UBC review assessed whether sleep-time practices affect the quality of children’s sleep by looking at studies from different parts of the world. Overall, the researchers looked at data from 44 studies involving almost 300,000 children ages four months to 18 years from 16 countries in Asia, Europe and North America.
The researchers divided the children into four age categories:
– Infants (ages four months to two years)
– Pre-schoolers (ages three to five years)
– School-age children (ages six to 12)
– Adolescents (ages 13 to 18)
Wendy Hall, a sleep expert and nursing professor at UBC, led this review and said that there was “good-to-strong” evidence to endorse certain sleep practices amongst young and school-aged children. Examples of these practices include regular bedtimes, keeping their bedrooms cool and quiet, reading before they sleep and allowing them to “self-soothe” (go back to sleep on their own if they wake up).
For older children, regular bedtimes were also found to be integral to good sleep and evidence suggests that adolescents with stricter sleep routines sleep better than those without.
The effects of pre-bedtime gadget use were also investigated in this review as Hall and Elizabeth Nethery, a PhD nursing student at UBC and co-author of the review, found ample evidence in support of limiting electronics before and during bedtime.
Studies from Japan, New Zealand and the United States showed a link between increased electronic use at bedtime and less sleep. Hall says that electronic use before sleep can “excite” school-age children and make them take more time to sleep.
In general, maintaining routines appeared to have a positive effect on sleep, as a study from New Zealand showed a link between regular family dinners and good sleep for adolescents.
Much to a few people’s surprise, there wasn’t a lot of evidence linking pre-bedtime caffeine consumption to interrupted sleep. But don’t give your teens the green light to chug down endless mugs of peppermint mocha just yet, because overall caffeine consumption throughout the day still appears to have an effect.
Ultimately, what you decide to do about your kids’ sleep routines this winter is up to you. While it’s true that seasonal breaks are a great time for everyone to let their hair down, deciding to keep some bedtime rules isn’t such a bad idea either, even if they whine a bit at the beginning! Because with well-rested and less-cranky kids, everyone wins.
Source | By Tesneem Ayoub