Research presented at the Australasian conference Sleep DownUnder 2015 in Melbourne found that getting kids to bed early may be even more important than ensuring they have a long sleep.
The Growing Up in Australia study of 3600 Australian children is the largest of its kind and the first to decisively show how crucial it is to get young ones snoozing earlier.
“This is valuable information for parents, many of whom will know about how important it is for their kids to get lots of sleep overall but not much about how significant the bedtime itself is,” says lead researcher Dr Jon Quach, of the Murdoch Children's Research Institute.
Dr Quach and colleagues from Murdoch Children's and University of New England analysed sleep and lifestyle data collected from parents of children at ages four to five, six to seven and eight to nine who participated in the Growing Up in Australia study.
They divided children into four groups, those who were early to bed and early to rise, early to bed and late to rise, late to bed and late to rise and late to bed and early to rise. Kids who were early to bed were asleep by 8.30pm, while late-to-bed kids fell asleep after this time.
Results show children who are early-to-sleep have better health-related quality of life, and their mothers have improved mental health, compared with children who are late-to-sleep.
“So mums and dads, getting kids to bed early is not just great for them. It’s good for you too,” Dr Quach says. “These benefits were seen in all early-to-bed kids regardless of whether they woke early or slept late.
The Victorian study didn’t find a link between bed times and children’s cognition and learning, behaviour or weight. However, South Australian research to be presented at the same conference was able to conclude that being early to bed and rising early may trim the waistlines of older children.
Taken together, these large Australian studies suggest that kids’ bedtimes have a deeper impact on children’s and parents’ lives than previously thought.
Sleep DownUnder 2015 includes presentations on every facet of our night time slumber from problems like snoring, insomnia, narcolepsy and coffee addiction through to the damaging effects of cigarettes, video games, mobile phones and fights before bedtime.
Among the discoveries are a raft of new ideas to help Australians sleep better, including a meditation technique, a diet rich in veggies or and pre-bed mug of milk extracted from sleepy cows.
Several other several studies reveal just how fatigued and sleep deprived many Australians are, particularly students and shift workers.
The 27th annual scientific conference will open at the Melbourne Convention Centre on Thursday, October 22 and wrap up on Saturday, October 24.