Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child
Unappreciated Power of Early Bedtimes (#2)
May 1, 2023

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A Healthy Child Needs a Healthy Brain, A Healthy Brain Needs Healthy Sleep

If you have not already done so, please read Blog Posts 1 through 5 that describe how sleep is important and beneficial. I will post specific information for parents and children based on my book, “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child.” Please do not be put off by my book’s length. This is a reference book. Read only the topic of interest to you.

Blog 129Unappreciated Power of Early Bedtimes (#2)

Blog Post 109 describes 5 published reports on children’s sleep in which early bedtimes were an important variable but either were not discussed or not highlighted in the results, discussion, or conclusion segments of each paper. In each report, upon further analysis at my request, the authors agreed that the bedtime was an important variable. Here is a 5th example:

A 2022 meticulous report describing “Associations between sleep and mental health in adolescents” examined over 11,000 teens, 13-14 years old.

The 4 sleep variables that they studied individually were:

  1. Bedtime
  2. Night time sleep hours
  3. Night awakening frequency (how often the child awakens at night)
  4. Sleep onset latency (how long it takes to fall asleep)

The mental health variables that they studied were:

Teen report of:

  • Mood
  • Emotional symptoms
  • Hyperactivity/inattention
  • Conduct problems
  • Peer relationship problems
  • Prosocial behaviours

The authors did discuss how late bedtimes were associated with some of the specific mental health variables in the context of how all the other individual sleep variables were also associated with specific mental health variables.  

Here is their conclusion in the paper’s abstract: “Specific sleep problems should be considered when assessing mental health in adolescents, which would allow more targeted prevention and intervention strategies. Further, special attention should be given to gender differences when addressing sleep and mental health.” Note that the item ‘Bedtime’ is not mentioned.

Here is their conclusion in the body of the paper: “Our study found that night waking frequency associates with higher number of mental health problems in adolescents at the age of 13-14 years old.”   Note that the item ‘Bedtime’ is not mentioned.

I asked an author of this paper to examine the relationships between the 4 individual sleep variables.  She graciously did the analysis, and found that all 4 sleep variables were highly correlated with each other! This means that children with late bedtimes also had fewer nighttime sleep hours, more frequent night awakenings, and longer sleep onset latency. Thus, as reflected in their conclusion regarding “more targeted prevention and intervention strategies”, a valid clinical suggestion would be to emphasize the importance of parent-influenced or parent-regulated early bedtimes. Because their own, unpublished, correlations proves that an early bedtime would be associated with more nighttime sleep hours, less frequent night awakenings, and shorter sleep onset latency. All of which would be associated with better mental health! Unfortunately, because the paper did not include this analysis or a discussion of how the 4 sleep variables were inter-related, the emphasis on early bedtimes does not appear in this paper.

I asked the author if it is fair to say that if these correlations had been discussed in the paper, the last sentence in the ‘Conclusion’ of the abstract might have stated “Further, special attention should be given to gender differences and the bedtime when addressing sleep and mental health.”

She responded, “Yes, I agree with you that for future research it would be good to pay further attention to the role of bedtime.”

For more information and sleep training:

Blog Post 75 discusses how more sleep produces better mental health.

Blog post 123 reviews the benefits of early bedtimes.

Blog Post 127 summarizes the benefits from healthy sleep.

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