Sleep plays an extremely important role in our health, yet it seems to be one of the first things we forego when we’re short on time. For children, this habit can prove to be harmful later in life. A new study by the pediatricians at Massachusetts General Hospital shows that insufficient sleep in early childhood can lead to cognitive and behavioral problems in later years.

The study monitored the sleep habits of 1,046 children and their consequent behaviors. The families of these children were interviewed when the children were ages 6 months, 3 years and 7 years old, and completed questionnaires at ages 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6 years old. The mothers were also sent survey instruments to evaluate each child’s executive function and behavioral issues, including emotional responses and social problems.

The findings support the importance of encouraging your children to get a good and sufficient night’s sleep. The study showed that children ages 3 to 7 who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to experience problems later in their childhood with attention, emotional control and peer relationships. Working memory, reasoning and problem solving were also negatively affected. This can translate to social issues and problems concentrating in school!

So, how much sleep should your children actually be getting?

Pediatricians recommend 12 hours or longer for children ages 6 months to 2 years, 11 hours or longer at ages 3 to 4 years, and 10 hours or longer at 5 to 7 years. Make sure you are limiting TV time before bed and try to stick to a consistent routine to ensure your child is getting a sufficient night’s sleep!
This article from Ingrid Prueher, a Pediatric Sleep Consultant, offers more tips for healthy bedtime habits, along with additional benefits of getting a good night’s sleep. Trust us, your children will appreciate their early bed time in the future 🙂