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Tween & Teen Bedtimes Are a Struggle — But a New Sleep-Health Study Shows Why Going to Bed Earlier Is So Important

One of the most challenging parts of being a parent is getting through the nightly bedtime routine without falling asleep yourself (or so my mother says). But once your kids hit the tween and teen years, it can be much more difficult to enforce a bedtime, and keep track of what they’re doing and how much they’re scrolling when the lights are out. With all the homework kids have these days on electronic devices and tablets, you don’t always have much control over what they’re doing before bed and how much quality sleep your child is getting.

A new study by the American Academy of Pediatrics confirms that bedtimes can be key to your children’s health. Here’s why: In general, an earlier bedtime means a longer time in bed with the lights out and devices off, and can lead to falling asleep more quickly and getting more sleep overall. Going to bed at the same time every night also helps keep circadian rhythms, the regular sleep-wake cycle that keeps many of the body’s systems balanced, on track during the adolescent years, the study reports.

Later bedtimes, low sleep quantity, and therefore lower sleep quality can be associated with a number of health and mental health issues,  including anxiety and depression, increased absences and tardiness from school, and lower enjoyment and academic performance at school.

With more access to technology, more homework and involvement in activities, weeknight bedtimes tend to decrease by 10 to 12 minutes per year of life, which is why advancing the bedtimes can be so important to development, especially as kids grow and go through puberty.

For the younger group in the study of 9 to16-year-olds, with a mean age of 11, having more sleep via an earlier bedtime can equate to less sleepiness during the day and ideally better concentration at school. That looks like initiating bedtime earlier, since making sure the child spends 10 hours in bed means they get two and a half more hours of solid sleep than if they were in bed for only 6.5 or seven hours, according to the study results.

It may not be as possible with older, high school-age kids to ensure your child is in bed for 10 hours, but even 8.5 hours in bed is an improvement to seven hours in terms of sleep duration: That extra hour and a half in bed led to 68 more minutes of sleep per night. So if the alarm goes off at 6:30 a.m., your teen’s bedtime should be 10 p.m. to get the full 8.5 hours.

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The research concludes that parents setting your tween or teen’s bedtime is best for their sleep health, so that they get as much sleep as possible to function well the next day. This can be easier said than done when you’re parenting a teen who has tons of homework and is involved in school extracurricular activities. It might mean shutting off cell phones beyond a certain time and adding a password to the Netflix account.

Helping your child stay as focused as possible on school work and self-care before bed so that they can hit the hay at about the same time each night can make sure everyone gets the best night’s rest.

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