Remember ‘bedtime’, or the time you had to be in bed by as a young child? Remember pleading with your parent(s) to stay up just that little bit longer, sure that they were merely exaggerating the risks/dangers of a late bedtime? Remember when anybody allowed to stay up later than you was considered effortlessly cool and rebellious?
Well, if you remember any of those things, you may just owe your parent(s) an apology. Rather than criticising them for their draconian time-keeping, perhaps you should in fact be thanking them for demanding that you go to bed before Home Alone 2 finished.
As it turns out, those children who regularly go to bed well-before their parents, are primed for better growth, academic success and emotional agility, relative to your less-rested, previously ‘cooler’ counterparts.
Why? Well, how we sleep in later life is largely determined by our sleep-patterns during our early life. What’s more, late bedtimes, disrupted sleep-patterns and daytime napping during your early-childhood have been seemingly proven to negatively impact upon your health in later life.
A recent study published in The Journal of Pediatrics for example, followed 1,000 pre-schoolers into adolescence, tracking their bedtimes, height, weight, and body mass index (BMI) between the ages of 4 and 15 years old. They eventually concluded that 39% of children who had gone to bed after 8pm at 4 years old were clinically obese as teenagers, relative to only 10% of those children who had had a regular bedtime before 8pm.
Of course, this shouldn’t really come as a surprise. High-quality sleep will inevitably provide you with long-lasting health effects. For example, sleep’s integral role in the retention of memory is well-documented. “Sleep is essential, and one main reason is that it allows the brain to learn new things every day while preserving and consolidating the old memories,” said Prof. Giulio Tononi, professor of sleep medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The problem is however, how should we react to the suggestion that many of our issues with sleep today, partially derive from our sleep patterns of 20/30/40 years ago? Should we for example, now view any attempts to better our quality of sleep as near-worthless?
Well, not quite.
Definitely, this further illustrates the enormous complexity of sleep. But perhaps most importantly, reviewing how you slept during early childhood only reaffirms the notion that routine, is king. Even if you didn’t manage to keep to a routine revolving around an 8pm bedtime when you were 4, who’s to say you can’t keep to a 11pm bedtime at 44?
Regardless, however entrenched your sleep-patterns currently are, you can be sure that the benefits of improving upon them will be felt long into the future.