Children’s bedtime routines help kids have both good nights and a better days. But did you know childhood routines lead to better health when they are teenagers? That’s the result of recent research by Good Night Advisory Council member Dr. Lauren Hale and her colleagues. Her research is the first to test the idea that routines set in early life are linked to healthier sleep and lower weight in adolescence.
Most teenagers—as many as 75 percent—get less than the 8 to 10 hours recommended by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Some sleep experts call it an epidemic. After all, there is a lot at stake for them. Sleep-deprived teens have a harder time learning, and they are at higher risk of car crashes due to drowsy driving. With this much on the line, finding ways to intervene is generating a lot of interest.
We know a comforting bedtime routine helps children get a good night’s rest, and Hale’s research followed over 2,000 children from age 5 into adolescence to see if having a routine early in life paid off even into their teen years. And indeed, she and her colleagues found that early bedtime routines were linked to better health in their teen years.
Compared with teens who hadn’t had a bedtime routine as children, teens who had consistent bedtime routines when they were 5 and 9 years old enjoyed more sleep. And bedtime routines early in life were also linked to teens’ body weight. Most researchers accept the idea that insufficient sleep is tied to obesity among children and in adults, but Hale’s research is the first to explore whether childhood bedtime routines might lead to higher body mass index in adolescence.
“Our research strengthens our understanding of the benefits of establishing and adhering to an early consistent bedtime with young children. A child that receives more restorative sleep in early life will benefit from the cumulative advantages of the additional sleep. We were not surprised to see that the benefits persisted into adolescence,” offered Dr. Hale.
This evidence adds to what we know about the benefits of a comforting bedtime routine in childhood and at all ages. And the more we know, the more we can help children thrive through our work at Pajama Program.
Learn more about our work, who we serve, and the impact we’re making at pajamaprogram.org/our-work.
Lauren Hale, PhD, is a Professor at Stony Brook University and a member of our Good Night Advisory Council. To read more about Lauren, click here.