It's official: The latest research on kids and sleep proves I am a bad mother. Call social services now! I've failed. A new study says that irregular bedtimes for kids can lead to behavioral problems. They say not going to sleep at the same time every night can disturb their natural circadian rhythm. That causes sleep deprivation, "undermining brain maturation and the ability to regulate certain behaviors." And by regulate certain behaviors, they mean not being hyperactive and throwing tantrums.
Consistent bedtimes is one aspect of parenting I consistently suck at. I've got just the barest grasp on getting my son to bed at the right time on school nights. On the weekends, all hell breaks loose and he's up two or three hours later than usual. But the researchers say there's hope for bedtime slacker parents like me and our kids!
Apparently this inconsistent bedtime curse is reversible. "For example, children who change from not having to having regular bedtimes show improvements in their behaviour," says study author Professor Yvonne Kelly. So great! All I have to do is more strictly enforce reasonable bedtimes. Okay. No problem. I can do that. Heheh ...
An open letter to Professor Yvonne Kelly:
Dear Professor Kelly,
Could you please help me put my kid to bed at a reasonable hour on the weekends? I need help.
A slacker parent
If you look around the web, the main advice parents get for maintaining consistent bedtimes is to establish rituals. For example:
1. Wind-down time with no electronics an hour before bed.
2. Play soft music.
3. Start getting kids into pajamas well in advance.
4. Read a bedtime story.
I can manage to do this on weeknights. It's on the weekends that we have a total free-for-all, where I suddenly look at the clock and say, "Wait a minute, what are you still doing up?!?" But I kind of feel like if bedtime is consistent five out of seven days of the week, maybe I can cut myself some slack on the weekends? Isn't there a compromise I could reach?
Maybe I could try and keep some of those rituals, just allow them to happen an hour or two later than normal. I think sleep researchers will say that consistent bedtimes all week for everyone (including adults!) is preferable. But I think this is one area where I'm just resigned to being a good-enough parent.
Do you have trouble maintaining a consistent bedtime for your kids?
Image via Peter Dedina/Flickr