As children return to school after a two-week break, parents and carers are being reminded of the importance of sleep for a young mind.
According to a new study by the University of South Australia, while staying up late is often a treat for kids, making it a habit could be damaging their health and wellbeing and, ultimately, their future prospects.
The 12-month study, which identified four primary sleep profiles, showed good sleep patterns were imperative for both child and adult.
More than 2,500 adult and child participants were classified into four groups: short sleepers, late to bed, long sleepers, and overall good sleepers.
Findings showed those regularly going to bed late were in the lowest socioeconomic position and had the least favourable diet and activity behaviours, giving them a definite disadvantage when it came to learning.
Love Parenting Newcastle’s Mel Burgess said, while a late night began as fun, the affects on children and parents were draining.
“I am constantly amazed at how an up-till-late sleepover will always transform either of my usually quite delightful kids into cranky, dobby, sassy, talk-backy versions of their former selves.
“For the next 24 hours, it’s like they aren’t even ‘them’.
After years of working as a parenting coach and being a mother herself, Mel says there are simple ways to help the return to normal bedtime a bit easier.
“Helping them see that they are increasingly responsible for managing their own sugar intake and sleep when they are in that setting, and then their ‘vibe’ upon coming home, has been such hard work,” she said.
“I’ve learnt that a post-sleepover nature-fix can work wonders.
“It is a long old day when they come back that stretched.
“I can’t imagine how exhausted I would be as a parent if their regular bedtimes were later and I had to help them manage through while tired and stretched on a daily basis.
“[It’s like] throwing a heap of your energy into dealing out some in-the-moment consequences that might pay better dividends put into supporting them to get to bed earlier?
“If they have been tired for a long time who might you even find in there under all that fatigued stretched-ness that you can get to know more and enjoy more?”
University of South Australia lead researcher Lisa Matricciani says her research shows the importance of a good night’s sleep.
“We all appreciate the importance of a good night’s sleep, but too much or too little, going to bed late or having irregular sleep schedules can be a cause for concern,” she says.
“The key finding is that adults and children who regularly go to bed late are more likely to have an unbalanced diet comprising fewer fruits and vegetables and more junk foods, such as chips and sugary drinks.
“Additionally, this group is also more likely to be less active, with children engaging in higher amounts of screen-time and far less physical exercise.
“Notably, people in the Late to bed cluster also came from the lowest socioeconomic demographic.”