We all know children need adequate rest. We also know that parenthood is exhausting.
Many parents are quite spent by the time bedtime rolls around.
For some, this translates to trying to get kids to bed early. For others, it means being too exhausted to push for an early bedtime.
Parenthood exhaustion is real and it can have a big impact on our mental wellness.
While many studies support early bedtimes as beneficial for kids, a new study has found it also benefits mothers by improving their mental health.
Researchers with the Growing Up in Australia study found early bedtimes benefited mothers’ mental health.
Why Is An Early Bedtime Beneficial For Kids?
For kids, the benefit of going to bed early is ensuring they get adequate sleep. If your child doesn’t have to be up in the morning at a specific time, it may not be as vital.
But for many of us, our lifestyle requires getting up a certain time, then heading to work and daycare, school, etc.
Adequate sleep is beneficial for everyone, however, for children it can be vital for their developing bodies and minds. The National Sleep Foundation makes sleep recommendations for each age group:
- Newborns (0-3 months): 14-17 hours each day
- Infants (4-11 months): 12-15 hours each day
- Toddlers (1-2 years): 11-14 hours each day
- Preschoolers (3-5): 10-13 hours each day
- School age children (6-13): 9-11 hours each day
- Teenagers (14-17): to 8-10 hours each day
- Adults (18-64): Sleep range is 7-9 hours each day
- Older adults (65+): 7-8 hours each day.
Every baby, child and adult are of course unique and these are simply guidelines.
For children, adequate sleep is a piece of the puzzle in maintaining a healthy weight, it helps with learning and attention at school, and it can help with their immune system and body repair.
It’s important to remember that for your infants, and even many preschoolers, these hours are needed over a 24 hour period and aren’t likely to be consecutive without some waking. Read How Much Sleep Does My Baby Need? to learn more.
Why Would An Early Bedtime Improve Mothers’ Mental Health?
It goes without saying that motherhood can be exhausting. Some days you’re going all day and simply collapse into bed as soon as you finally get the kids to sleep.
Downtime? A chance to unwind? What is that? We all need it, but when you’re a mother it can be hard to find.
Researchers with the Growing Up in Australia survey tracked families beginning in 2004 and continued to check in every two years.
When looking at bedtimes and the mental health of mothers, researched collected information from parents of kids aged 4 to 5 and again at age 6 to 7, and 8 to 9.
They looked at lifestyle and bedtime data. What they found was that children with earlier bedtimes had better health-related quality of life when compared to kids who didn’t go to bed earlier. What was particularly interesting, however, was these children also had mothers with improved mental health.
And perhaps most interesting of all, regardless of how the children actually slept (e.g. night waking, location of sleeping, etc.) the key to improved mental health was an earlier bedtime.
So, why would an early bedtime improve a mother’s mental health? Most likely, an earlier bedtime actually allowed for some downtime. If the children are in bed by 8 or 8:30pm, a mother has time to prepare for the next day, have a bit of quiet time, and still get to bed at a reasonable hour herself.
What About Babies, Can They Have Early Bedtimes?
These researchers looked at children beginning at age 4. Toddlers, preschoolers and school aged children are typically ready for and benefit from bedtimes.
With infants, it can be ideal to establish night versus day behaviour, but expect to be flexible. Infants go through many developmental changes and thus many sleeping patterns.
Establishing a bedtime routine and clear differences between nighttime and daytime behaviour can help set the groundwork for an early bedtime when they’re old enough to have more of a sleeping schedule.
In the meantime, you can help improve your mental health by finding other ways to get adequate rest and practice self-care.
Be sure to read 6 Things To Do When You Need More Sleep for more tips on getting adequate rest as a new mama.