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Sleeping & Soothing

How Your Kid’s Bedtime Affects Your Mental Health

The time your kid goes to bed has a surprising effect on your health, too

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It’s probably not super-surprising that going to bed early is good for kids. But a new Australian study suggests early kid bedtimes have an unexpected benefit for moms: improved mental health.

The results were released as part of the "Growing up in Australia" study, which looked at two groups of 5,000 Australian children ages 0 to 1 and 4 to 5. Both age groups got a health boost from an earlier bedtime (defined as before 8:30pm), and their parents did, too.

What's more: It didn't seem to matter how long kids actually stayed asleep, moms had improved mental health as long as their kids went to bed early.

Of course, it's one thing to know how important bedtimes are and quite another to work them into a busy schedule—or convince your preschooler to get on board. These tips from the National Sleep Foundation can help.

Create a bedtime routine. Even infants can make sense of days and nights. Keep your home dark and quiet at night, and as your baby gets older, have a consistent routine (like a bedtime bath, story, and song) that your kid can associate with sleep.  

Re-think naptime. We know, naptime is sacred. But as kids get older, naps can begin to interfere with their ability to sleep at night. If your child is wide awake when 8 p.m. rolls around, consider how much they're sleeping during the day. Toddlers only need 11 to 14 hours of sleep over a 24-hour period, so if you want them to sleep in later than dawn it may be time to ditch the nap.  

Set clear limits. Every parent has given into a tearful request for just one more hug (or book, or stuffed animal, or drink of water, or potty break…), but it's important to set limits around bedtime. If your child knows they prolong their bedtime, they will. Make room in their bedtime routine for those snuggles and requests, but also make it clear when it's time for sleep. No negotiating!  

Ditch the screens. As tempting as it is to let kids use screens before bed, experts say the blue light they emit can keep kids awake. Find other ways for kids to wind down before bed, and make sure that electronics are put away by 7 p.m. every night.