Screentime Before Bedtime? One simple tweak for better behaved kids.

screentimeWhether your kids catch a favorite show or finish their homework on the computer just before bedtime, you might want to adjust your routine a little. According to a new study, children of all ages fall asleep faster if they haven’t been staring at a screen in the two hours prior to bedtime—and this adds up to more than an hour of extra sleep during the school week.

That might not sound like a lot, but it all counts. More sleep has been linked to plenty of great benefits for kids, from being more alert at school to simply being happier and healthier. And too little sleep is known to have plenty of detrimental effects, such as aggression and hyperactivity. Kids clearly do better when they get their zzz’s!

The study, by Louise Foley with the University of Auckland in New Zealand, suggests that screentime upsets the natural wind-down process. And if yours is like most households, screentime accounts for a sizeable portion of the evening routine, enough to make a real difference in your kids’ sleep—and their behavior.

You don’t need to make a big change, however, to reap the benefits of extra sleep. Implement a “bedtime” for screens that the whole family follows (at least until your kids are asleep!), about 1-2 hours before the time your kids’ heads normally hit the pillow. Then, be sure your kids have plenty of opportunity to complete their computer-aided homework before it’s time to shut down.

Of course, with busy schedules for the whole family, it can be tough to commit to a change. Once you experience the benefits of better sleep, however, you won’t look back. Fill the space before bedtime with quieter activities: board games, crafts, music practice, reading, playtime or off-screen homework will all do a much better job of preparing your kids to sleep than the television.

Remember that most kids aren’t getting enough sleep in the first place, which accounts for a lot of negative behavior. The National Sleep Foundations offers these guidelines: Preschoolers should get 11-13 hours, elementary-aged kids should get 10-11 teens need 8.5 to 9.25 hours daily. While needs vary and sometimes an early bedtime can’t happen, if you find your household regularly misses these numbers and you see poor performance and behavior, you might want to rethink your schedule.

Will your kids complain about the new system? Sure! But stick to your plan, and your whole family will be happier for it—and better rested.

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About the Author

Amy McCready
Nationally recognized parenting expert Amy McCready is the Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions® and the best-selling author of The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic - A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World and If I Have to Tell You One More Time…The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids to Listen Without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling. As a “recovering yeller” and a Certified Positive Discipline Instructor, Amy is a champion of positive parenting techniques for happier families and well-behaved kids. Amy is a TODAY Show contributor and has been featured on The Doctors, CBS This Morning, CNN, Fox & Friends, MSNBC, Rachael Ray, Steve Harvey & others. In her most important role, she is the proud mom of two amazing young men.