An Earlier Bedtime Helps Prepare Your Child for Kindergarten, Study Says

An earlier bedtime could be the key to kindergarten success.

By: Amanda Mushro
Mother and daughter reading in bed

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Mother and daughter reading in bed

Photo by: JGI/Jamie Grill

JGI/Jamie Grill

When you start buying back-to-school supplies for your rising kindergartner, be sure to add a pair of comfy pajamas to the list because in addition to their crayons, pencils, and backpack, researchers say the key to kindergarten success is an earlier bedtime. If your summer schedule has your soon-to-be kindergartener staying up way too late, read on to see why getting them to bed early will help them on their first day and the entire school year.

According to the study written in the American Academy of Pediatrics Journal, researchers monitored the sleep duration of kindergarteners over four different week-long periods:

  • Pre-Kindergarten (July–August)
  • Early Kindergarten (late September)
  • Mid-Kindergarten (late November)
  • Late Kindergarten (mid-to-late April)

The children's teachers were then asked to evaluate the students on how they were transitioning, how they were learning, and how they were doing socially. While the teachers didn’t know how much each child slept over the course of the night, the evidence was clear — students who had more sleep performed better at school.

"The more consistently children got 10-plus hours of sleep during the night, the better the children's peer relationships, relationships with their teachers, overall academic performance, and sight recognition of words and letters," lead study author Douglas Teti tells CNN.

Researchers noted that kindergarten is a huge transition for little ones. Academically, socially, and emotionally, transitioning to elementary school is a big deal for a little one. In addition to preparing in pre-kindergarten and making sure they have everything they need to start school off on the right food, researchers hope this study will encourage parents to focus on the importance of a good night’s sleep for their kindergarteners.

Currently, 10 to 13 hours is the recommended amount of sleep for a kindergartener. However, this includes naps, which may not be happening for most kindergarten-aged children. Teti says parents should focus on a solid sleep schedule at night with an earlier bedtime instead of playing "catch up" with a nap.

"This suggests that 'making up' for inadequate nighttime sleep by allowing one's child to nap during the day will not help children in their kindergarten transition. It is best to have that 10+ hours of sleep concentrated during the nighttime sleep period, and to try to make this as consistent as possible across nights," Teti said.

Researchers also suggest that if your kindergartener is regularly napping, you may want to start phasing out the nap, since it can keep them up at night. However, the first few weeks of school can be exhausting, and a short nap may be needed.

So what can parents do? If your little one is headed off to kindergarten in a few weeks or a few days, researchers say now is the time to work on their sleep schedules. You can begin moving bedtime back in 15-minute increments. Also, a consistent bedtime routine is recommended for all kids.

Here are a few tips on improving their nighttime routine:

  • No screens at least 30 minutes before bed
  • Make sure the room is cool and dark (with nightlight)
  • Use a white noise machine if outside sounds are keeping kids up
  • Start the bedtime routine early – bath, brush teeth, read a few books, then off to dreamland

"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," Teti says.

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