Sleep is critical for preschoolers, says Menlo Park researcher

by Linda Hubbard Gulker on June 8, 2010

Children in households with bedtime rules and children who get adequate sleep score higher on a range of developmental assessments, according to a research conducted by Erika Gaylor, PhD, early childhood policy researcher for SRI International in Menlo Park.

Results indicate that among sleep habits, having a regular bedtime was the most consis­tent predictor of positive developmental outcomes at four years of age.  Scores for receptive and expressive language, phonological awareness, literacy and early math abilities were higher in children whose parents reported having rules about what time their child goes to bed.  Having an earlier bedtime also was predictive of higher scores for most developmental measures.

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, preschool children should get a minimum of 11 hours of sleep each night.  Getting less than this recommended amount of sleep, the study’s authors found, was associated with lower scores on phonological awareness, literacy and early math skills. The data show that many children are not getting the recommended amount of sleep, which may have negative consequences for their development and school achievement.

“Getting parents to set bedtime routines can be an important way to make a significant impact on children’s emergent literacy and language skills,” said Dr. Gaylor, who  recommends that parents help their preschooler get sufficient sleep by setting an appropriate time for their child to go to bed and interacting with their child at bedtime using routines such as reading books or telling stories.

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