A recent study has concluded that children who get regular sleep perform better in school and have less behavioural problems, than those who didn't have a set bedtime. The researchers out of University College London saw positive changes in kids' behaviour when they went from non-regular bedtimes to a scheduled one. Enforcing a bedtime can be tough at the beginning, but there are ways parents can increase their chances of success.
Start with the basics. Decide on a reasonable bedtime for your child for them to get eight to 10 hours of sleep, and then tell them what that is. This is not a negotiation: you decide. It doesn't matter what time their friends go to bed. Your house, your rules. Then, work the day backwards to see how to meet that bedtime and still get everything done. If bedtime is 8:30, figure out what time homework needs to be completed, when a shower might take place, and when dinner should be served. (Extracurricular sports can throw a wrench into plans; but aim for the nights when you can.)
Have a "screen policy" and set a time when they should be put away prior to bedtime. Encourage reading or other quiet activities prior to lights out to bring the energy level down. Consider moving bedtime to a later (regular) time only when the child is consistently waking up without the aid of a human or electronic alarm.
Keep bedtimes routine even when travelling to avoid meltdowns during family vacations. Weekend sleepovers should still stay within a range of regular bedtime, or you will all suffer from the sleepover hangover. And while most kids don't have classes on Saturday or Sunday, they may be engaged in sports or cultural events and lessons where they need to behave appropriately.
Teenagers normally have a different time clock, but sleep is still the number one way they can release stress. Keep them to reasonable bedtimes while you can; their marks are important.
Of course the schedule will be hard to hit 100 per cent of the time, as families are busy with work and other demands, but a late bedtime should be the exception, rather than the rule.
This article was originally run in the Metro News. Look for Kathy's "It's All Relative" parenting column the second Monday of every month. Kathy Buckworth's latest book "I Am So The Boss Of You" is available at bookstores everywhere. Follow Kathy @Kathybuckworth and visit www.kathybuckworth.com