Article image

The best bedtime routine for children has now been defined

Experts at the University of Manchester have narrowed down the “perfect bedtime routine” for children between the ages of two and eight. The psychologists defined the ideal bedtime by scoring different routines and activities over the course of a week. 

The study showed that a combination of activities like brushing teeth or reading a bedtime story are the most essential, but talking to children is also helpful.

The researchers assigned scores to various bedtime activities, such as 35 points for brushing teeth and 20 points for going to bed at a consistent time each night. The most effective routines were found to be those that scored more than 50 points.

Some of the other high-scoring nighttime activities include avoiding food, drinks, and screen time before bed.

According to the researchers, different combinations of methods work. They noted that once you have made a task part of your regular routine, but then fail to do it one night, the points associated with that task will be lost.

“Bedtime routines are important family activities and have important implications on children’s well-being, development and health,” said study lead author Dr. George Kitsaras.

“Organizations as diverse as the Book Trust to the BBC and the NHS are all engaged in this debate – but up to now, there has been no real scientific consensus to inform them; we need untie the conflicting signals and messages parents receive.”

“This lack of a clear consensus-based definition of limits health professionals’ ability to communicate best practice effectively with families.”

“This lack of a clear consensus-based definition of limits health professionals’ ability to communicate best practice effectively with families.”

Dr. Kitsaras said that the new definition considers the parental stresses and difficulties that can arise at bedtime while incorporating best practice and available scientific advice. “This study for the first time provides that expert and scientific guidance.”

The list of core bedtime activities was compiled by 59 experts, including psychologists, dentists, and public health specialists.

“All activities around bedtime matter for children’s development and well-being. From the wide range of activities around bedtime, our experts considered toothbrushing to be the most important to remember each night,” said Dr. Kitsaras.

“There are strong links between inadequate oral hygiene practices and dental decay in children and adults. For children, early childhood caries can lead to higher occurrence of dental disease in later life and, in some cases, untreated childhood caries can lead to extractions under general anaesthetic causing additional problems for children and parents.”

“Washing or having a shower each night before bed, on the other hand might be a common practice for families but our experts considered it to be part of a wider umbrella of child-parent interactions rather than a standalone practice we need to specifically target.”

“I have no doubt the debate will continue and our definition might even be refined as more people engage with it.”

The study is published in the journal Plos One.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

News coming your way
The biggest news about our planet delivered to you each day