If your kid is starting kindergarten in September, you might already be thinking about whether they’re ready.
Can they zip their own jacket and open their lunch containers?
Can they wipe their own bum after a bathroom visit?
Are they consistently getting at least 10 hours of sleep every night?
You read that last one right. Sleep guidelines have long advised that kids three to five years old should aim for 10 to 13 hours of sleep, but new research from the journal Pediatrics pinpoints a specific number of hours that seems to directly predict kindergarten success.
The study, called "Sleep Duration and Kindergarten Adjustment," examined kids’ sleeping patterns across the year in 221 families with kindergartners. Teachers provided assessments of the participating kids, measuring their academic performance and socio-emotional and learning engagement.
The study found that kids who consistently had 10 or more hours of sleep per night were noticeably more engaged in school and performed higher academically throughout the school year. This was especially the case for kids who had 10+ hours of sleep every night for a few months before they started kindergarten.
“Children with more nights of 10-plus hours of pre-K sleep were rated more favourably by teachers on aggression, social competence, student-teacher relationships, classroom learning behaviours, school readiness, and ADHD behaviour,” say the study authors. Note: Naps don’t count here; researchers say the 10+ hours need to happen overnight.
The study findings come as no surprise to Alanna McGinn, a long-time sleep consultant and founder of Good Night Sleep Site. “A well-rested child will display better cognitive abilities and have a more pleasant mood and temperament,” she says. “They’ll also have a stronger immune system," she adds, "which is important now more than ever.”
As a bonus, kids with a regular bedtime and bedtime routine are less likely to fight sleep. “In my experience, when a child has a regular bedtime routine of at least three times a week, the child falls asleep easier and faster,” she says.
If your child will be starting school this fall and nighttime sleep isn’t currently going as well as it could be, try these tips:
Cut naps and move bedtime earlier. “If you are starting to wean your child off of naps prior to starting kindergarten, because of the lost daytime sleep and stress of the new routine, it’s important that parents offer an earlier bedtime for the first few weeks and possibly even months until their child has adapted to this transition,” says McGinn.
Institute a regular bedtime routine. Even school-aged kids benefit from a bedtime routine, as it helps the wind down and maintains a daily opportunity to bond.
Shut off screens before the bedtime routine begins. Ideal bedtime activities include chatting, storytelling, singing and cuddling. Screens might seem to quiet your child down, but they are in fact too stimulating right before sleep time.