Can’t Win for Losing

Sleeping-boySummertime and the living is easy…

No pencils, no books, no teacher’s dirty looks… and no set bedtime.

What time do your children hit the hay during the summer months?

In many families, summer sleepy time is dictated by Mother Nature.  Sunset bedtimes are the norm for many clans, much to the delight of young children, who gain at least a couple hours of extra playtime during the months of June, July and August.

My 8-year-old is one of millions who has enjoyed bonus awake time this summer.  She’s spent it capturing fireflies, biking, making s’mores and attending all-night un-slumber parties with her BFFs.

As parents, many of us rationalize that allowing our children to stray from their regular bedtime is a win-win situation:  Your kids love you for allowing them to savor every minute of daylight; plus, you get to squeeze in some extra family time.

Unfortunately, experts don’t agree.

In fact, a new study claims that children who go to bed at different times every night are being robbed of brainpower.

British researchers followed 11,000 children in the United Kingdom for nearly five years.  The kids entered the study when they were 3 years old and at age 7 they were given tests to assess their math and reading skills, as well as spatial awareness.

The results showed that girls who had irregular bedtimes scored worse on all three tests than girls with regular bedtimes.  Meanwhile, the effect on boys was not as profound.

Scientists concluded that irregular bedtimes can disrupt natural body rhythms and cause sleep deprivation which can potentially harm children’s ability to acquire and retain information. The study’s lead author also noted that reduced or disrupted sleep — especially if it occurs at key times in development — can “have important impacts on health throughout life.”

In other words, you may not be doing your kid a favor by allowing him to pick and choose when he turns in every night.  Experts recommend sticking to a routine, even in the summer.

That said; I doubt a few late nights in the course of an entire summer will lead to a severe brain drain, though you may pay for it in the behavior department.  After all, an overtired kid can take cranky to a new level.

Do you stick to a strict bedtime routine when your kids are on summer break?

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Michele Cheplic

About Michele Cheplic

Michele Cheplic was born and raised in Hilo, Hawaii, but now lives in Wisconsin. Michele graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in Journalism. She spent the next ten years as a television anchor and reporter at various stations throughout the country (from the CBS affiliate in Honolulu to the NBC affiliate in Green Bay). She has won numerous honors including an Emmy Award and multiple Edward R. Murrow awards honoring outstanding achievements in broadcast journalism. In addition, she has received awards from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association for her reports on air travel and the Wisconsin Education Association Council for her stories on education. Michele has since left television to concentrate on being a mom and freelance writer.