Dr. Ahmad Bailony, a pediatrician affiliated with Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center, explained a recent study that examined the effects of late bedtimes on children’s reading and math scores, as well as offered tips for parents for good bedtime habits. Aired July 16, 2013 on San Diego 6 News.
Lynda Martin, San Diego 6 anchor: We all know sleep is important, and for kids, it’s especially important. It can affect their whole day and let’s face it, during summer, kids want to stay up later (or at least mine do, and all their friends do). Dr. Ahmad Bailony is here, a pediatrician from Sharp Chula Vista. Thanks for joining us!
Dr. Ahmad Bailony, Pediatrics, Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center: Thanks for having me.
Lynda: We’re talking about kids and sleep and especially in the summer, it’s tough. I was telling you during the break that by the time my kids come home from a sleepover, they’re wrecked. They have dark circles under their eyes.
Dr. Bailony: It’s understandable. I remember when I was a kid and I had sleepovers, I was probably the same way.
Lynda: Kids who stay up late don’t do as well in school. There was a recent study done on this particular thing, even if you have that pattern in the summer before you go back to school.
Dr. Bailony: Yes, there was a recent study done in England and they looked at a large sample of kids — actually over 11,000 kids — at three ages — ages three, five and seven — and found that kids who go to sleep after 9 pm consistently had lower scores in reading and math.
Lynda: Why is it so important? We know the basics — nobody wants to be tired — but for kids, why is it especially important that they sleep well?
Dr. Bailony: Your body has a natural circadian rhythm and I think we sometimes forget to think about these things. We have all of these things like Facebook and Twitter and we forget to think about something as basic as sleep, but your body needs its natural clock. Without it, you obviously see problems with reading, math, spatial cognition and things like that. It’s very important for kids to get that baseline rest that they need.
Lynda: From whatever perspective you come from, whether you’re a teacher or parent, how can you tell when a kid’s not sleeping well? Aside from the very obvious?
Dr. Bailony: Questions that hopefully your pediatrician should ask you are, “How is your kid doing in school? Are they able to pay attention in school? Are they sleeping during the daytime?” Are they one of those kids — like I used to be — who just have to take that daytime nap?
Lynda: I’m a huge fan of the daytime nap.
Dr. Bailony: A daytime nap is good, as long as it’s limited to just that one daytime nap. There are some kids who will sleep the whole day and that’s a sign that they’re not sleeping well at night.
Lynda: How can you practice these good habits in the summer when kids naturally want to stay up later because everyone else is doing it?
Dr. Bailony: As with anything, I try to keep it simple and I’ve come up with a little acronym: ERN. Basically, the number one thing you want to look at is the kid’s bedroom environment. These days, that’s something that’s hard to establish. A lot of times there are TVs and iPads. You really want none of that stuff in the bedroom. You want the bedroom to be kind of a dark, a cool 70 to 75 degrees, and you want it to be a positive environment. For example, when your kid gets in trouble, you never want time-out to be in the bedroom, because if they associated a negative thing with the bedroom.
Lynda: They’re not going to want to go in there to sleep! OK, and then just being firm and saying no, you can’t have these things?
Dr. Bailony: Yes, and keeping a ritual. If the bedtime is 9 o’clock, you really want to be consistent with that. I remember when I was a kid, I used to be afraid of aliens, so I would try to get my parents to get me another glass of water or read me another story. You don’t want your kids to do that, so don’t let your kids be like I was. You really want to be consistent, whatever that bedtime is should be bedtime, and you should have the ability to say no.
Lynda: OK. You’re a parent after all!
Dr. Bailony: It can be very hard to say no to your kids.
Lynda: It’s not that hard (laughs). Thank you so much for coming in.