In groundbreaking research just out, mothers who manage to get their kids to fall asleep before 8.30pm are happier than those who don’t.
In other words, those mums who spend a few hours every night kicking back with a glass of wine and a Thai takeaway, binge-watching Game Of Thrones with their significant other, curled up on the couch, are less frazzled than those who are standing in front of the bedroom door at 10.30pm, shrieking, “Will you just go the f*** to sleep! You’ve already drunk 17 litres of water, I’ve read you War And Peace, and I’ve searched under the bed, on my hands and knees, for monsters which DON’T EVEN EXIST. Now go the f*** to sleep!”
The study, by the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute and the University of New England, looked at 3,600 children. It found that those who fell asleep before 8.30pm were healthier and their mothers had improved mental health.
But interestingly, the study found there was no link between children’s bedtime and their intelligence, behaviour or weight.
I do wonder about the findings of this study when it comes to kids' health. Is it possible that the parents who insist on their kids being in bed before 8.30pm are more likely to insist on other things, like their kids eating lots of fresh fruit and veggies and getting plenty of exercise? Are there other factors involved, not just the early bedtime?
Okay, I admit. I am biased here. I don't want to read these kind of findings. My kids don't go to bed before 8.30pm. Their bedtime is 9pm, and they often fall asleep later than that. Then they stay asleep till 7.30am.
I marvel when I hear other parents say their kids go to bed as early as 7pm or 7.30pm. Mine have the occasional after-school activity, or some of that all-important "free play" out in the backyard (i.e, watering each other and digging a few holes for me to fall into). By the time they've eaten their dinner, been prodded into doing a bit of homework and just hung out and chatted a bit, it's already edging towards 9pm. I find it hard to know what to cut back on. I don't really want to cut back on any of it.
WATCH a video showing two kids who are happy to go to bed when they're told. Post continues after the video...
Anyway, my husband, like so many other parents out there, is rarely home from work before 7pm. An extra half-hour or so with the kids means a lot.
Of course I want to give my kids the best possible chance to be healthy. But I wonder if this "early to bed, early to rise" mantra is oversimplifying things a bit, especially when you take into account the many countries around the world, such as Spain, where kids routinely stay up late. There's also the fact that different studies on sleep come up with different conclusions, with some suggesting that having a regular bedtime, whether early or late, is the most important thing.
As for kids' early bedtimes being good for their mothers' mental health, yes, that's probably true. I won't argue that one. Anyway, right now I just don't have the mental energy to get into a fight.
What time do your kids go to bed?