Delay Bedtime to Prepare Your Child for Kindergarten, Study Finds

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Aitana De La Cruz and Alexis Bernal react to their teacher during kindergarten class at Daniels Canyon Elementary School in Heber on March 29. A routine that helps children relax each night can help them get enough and regular sleep, experts have said. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

Estimated reading time: 3-4 minutes

ATLANTA — A backpack, lunch box, crayons and at least 10 hours of sleep each night are all kids need to get off to a good start in kindergarten, according to a new study.

The researchers monitored the sleep duration of kindergarten children over four one-week periods and asked the children’s teachers to assess their transition to formal school, according to the study published this week in the journal Pediatrics. The teachers did not know how much each child had slept during the night.

“The more children consistently slept for more than 10 hours overnight, the better their relationships with peers, relationships with teachers, overall school performance, and visual recognition of words and letters,” the lead author said. of the study, Douglas Teti, eminent professor. and head of the department of human development and family studies at Pennsylvania State University, via email.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine already suggests that kindergartners get 10 to 13 hours of sleep — but that’s during the day, and that includes naps.

But the study’s findings challenge the advice in that they showed the biggest predictor of successful school adjustment was getting at least 10 hours of regular sleep during the night, said Teti.

“This suggests that ‘compensating’ for insufficient nighttime sleep by allowing your child to nap during the day will not help children in their transition to kindergarten. It is best to have more than 10 hours of focused sleep during the nighttime sleep period, and to try to make that as consistent as possible from night to night,” Teti said.

The study methods are sound and support what can be seen in clinical settings as well as broader pediatric research, said psychologist Ariel A. Williamson, a pediatric sleep expert in the Department of Child and Mental Health Psychiatry. Adolescent and Behavioral Sciences at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. and assistant professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Williamson was not involved in the study.

If you have a little one approaching kindergarten in the fall, now might be the time to start some good sleep habits. Over the year, pre-kindergarten sleep patterns made the biggest difference, the study found.

“Intervention should start before kindergarten starts in September,” Teti said. “Parents should do what they can to help their children get most if not all of their sleep on a regular basis during the children’s nighttime sleep period.”

Adopt good sleep habits

The study results don’t mean that preschoolers or younger should start weaning off naps, which are important during childhood, Teti said.

“For many young children, afternoon naps are developmentally typical; however, as the transition to kindergarten approaches, families may wish to reduce daytime naps to consolidate nighttime sleep. “Williamson said.


It’s best to get more than 10 hours of concentrated sleep during the nighttime sleep period and try to make this as consistent as possible from night to night.

–Douglas Teti, study author


If your child is transitioning to kindergarten, Teti suggests setting a bedtime of 9 p.m. or earlier and working to ensure that most of the child’s sleep occurs at night.

This can be difficult for some families to adhere to, especially when adults have non-standard working hours, he acknowledged. In these cases, Teti suggested leaning on other caregivers or family members for support.

In addition to sticking to that earlier bedtime, it can help to avoid — not eliminate — screen use, Teti said. Screens like TVs, video games and tablets should be completely eliminated at least 30 minutes before bedtime, however, he added.

It’s also important to be involved with bedtime, establishing a consistent routine and getting the child ready for bed, Teti said. That can mean taking a bath, reading books, talking quietly and creating a calming environment, he suggested.

This regular schedule has been shown to increase how long children sleep during the night, Williamson said.

“Establishing a consistent bedtime routine…could help encourage a regular sleep schedule and promote optimal nighttime sleep duration, especially in infancy,” she said.

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