Put Your Young Child to Bed for His Own Good
It sounds like common sense, but researchers have proven that preschool children who don’t get adequate sleep have “higher odds of parent-reported overactivity, anger, aggression, impulsivity, tantrums, and annoying behaviors.” Anyone who’s ever lived with a cranky child who hasn’t had enough shut-eye could tell researchers this is no revelation: Little ones need their sleep. Insufficient sleep does not yield ideal behavior.
But the study, published recently in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, underscores the importance of adequate sleep for children in this age group. Researchers studied more than 8,000 children born in 2001, and followed the children’s progress through kindergarten. Experts recommend that four-year-olds get between eleven and thirteen hours of sleep every 24 hours. In the study, children who only slept for nine-and-three-quarters hours displayed significantly worse behaviors during waking hours, compared to kids who got ten-and-a-half hours, or more, of sleep. Tired kids displayed more anger and aggression. Short sleepers were 80% more likely, for example, to engage in aggressive behaviors than long-sleepers.
“Advocating for regular sleep habits, healthy sleep hygiene, and regular bedtime routines may be helpful for young children,” the investigators noted. Sounds like common mother’s wisdom, but evidently many mothers haven’t gotten the memo. Previous research suggests that children in this age group do best when they have regular, early bedtimes, and regular, early wake times, providing at least 11 hours of sleep. Less than two hours of television viewing time per day has also been linked to better waking behavior among this age group.
Scharf RJ, Demmer RT, Silver EJ, Stein RE. Nighttime sleep duration and externalizing behaviors of preschool children. J Dev Behav Pediatr. 2013 Jul-Aug;34(6):384-91. doi: 10.1097/DBP.0b013e31829a7a0d.
Yokomaku A, Misao K, Omoto F, Yamagishi R, Tanaka K, Takada K, et al. A study of the association between sleep habits and problematic behaviors in preschool children. Chronobiol Int. 2008 Jul;25(4):549-64. doi: 10.1080/07420520802261705.