Food and Behaviour Research

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26 January 2015 - ScienceDaily - Good bedtime habits equal better sleep for kids

Children obtain better and more age-appropriate sleep in the presence of household rules and regular sleep-wake routines, according to sleep researchers.

The researchers found that well-established rules for getting good sleep, such as limited caffeine and a regular bedtime, led to sufficient sleep quantity and adequate sleep quality. In contrast, when parents and children had electronic devices on in the bedroom after bedtime, sleep deficiency was more likely.

Reducing the encroachment of technology and media into sleep time and supporting well-known sleep hygiene principles should be a focus of public health intervention goals for sleep health, the researchers said.

According to researchers, although the majority of parents endorsed the importance of sleep, 90 percent of children did not sleep the full amount of time recommended for their age group.

Some of the primary consequences of poor sleep among children and adolescents are behavioral problems, impaired learning and school performance, sports injuries, problems with mood and emotional regulation, and a worsening of health-related issues including obesity.

Evidence also indicates that in adolescence, lack of sleep may be related to high-risk behaviors such as substance abuse, suicidal behaviors and drowsy driving.

Significant predictors of age-adjusted sufficient sleep duration -- estimated conservatively as at least nine hours for ages 6 through 11 years and at least eight hours for ages 12 to 17 years -- included parent education, regular enforcement of rules about caffeine and whether children left technology on in their bedroom overnight.

Several potential reasons for poor sleep include the use of technology in the bedroom, complicated and busy daily schedules with competing work, school, social, and recreational activities as well as neighborhood noise from vehicular traffic, commercial or industrial activity and neighbors.

Within the family dynamic, a consistent bedtime routine improves sleep, whereas television use in the bedroom generally is associated with curtailed sleep.

"Good quality and sufficient sleep are vital for children," Buxton said. "Just like a healthy diet and exercise, sleep is critical for children to stay healthy, grow, learn, do well in school, and function at their best."