Bedtime is a brain booster

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Life is tough. It’s tougher when you don’t have as much horsepower up here. The smarter your kids are, the better their life is going to be. So it’s good to know there is a very easy thing you can do to give your kids a better brain – send them to bed. Early. Same time, every night.

A big study looked at the home life of 10,000 kids, including their bedtimes. They got surveyed at ages three, five and seven. The clear result – those that had regular bedtimes did better in reading, maths and other skills as well. I know, it can be hard to get our kids into bed, but start making it a habit now and hold the line.

By the way, teenagers need lots of sleep too – about 8.5-9.5 hours every night. But the thing is, the bit of their brain that tells them they are sleepy and that they should go to bed isn’t working properly yet. Adults like you, you started feeling sleepy, probably about the time I started talking! No, adults start to feel sleepy at about 10pm but high schoolers don’t feel that way until about 1am. And if they are staring at bright screens on their phones or games, then that that tricks the brain into thinking it’s still daytime! And then they have texts coming in at all hours, and they play video games that get them all pumped up and so it is no wonder that a study of teenagers showed that they only get 7.5 hours sleep on average on a school night – two hours less than what most of them actually need.

They are the most sleep-deprived people around. It affects them. Missing two hours sleep makes you perform at the same level as someone with a blood-alcohol level of 0.05 – it’s like they’re starting school after having a couple of beers for breakfast! That means accidents and bad moods and, even if your kid’s got a top-class brain and got good teachers, how can they do much learning if their brain is half asleep? Research shows the same thing for teenagers as little kids – the kids who slept more got better marks. And of course they aren’t as sleepy and not as depressed.

So shove your kids off to bed. Start giving them a countdown about an hour before you actually want them asleep, so they can finish what they are doing and do all the mucking around that they’ve got to do. Dimming the lights in the house works. Show them how to wind down. Start turning off the TV earlier and picking up a book instead. Take them a glass of warm milk – well, people say that, but I hate warm milk – it is okay with a bit of honey or something in it though. And, of course, energy drinks and cola and coffee – that’s going to muck up their sleep, so hide them.

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About Author

John Cowan

Writer, speaker and broadcaster, John Cowan shares his insight and opinions about the latest in parenting and family news in New Zealand. Hear John speak on radio stations every week throughout the country and regularly on national TV.  Follow @JohnCowanNZ on Twitter

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