While many parents want to prepare their kids academically to start kindergarten, a new study conducted by researchers from Penn State suggests that sleep is an equally important factor for kindergarten readiness.
According to the team's findings, the transition to kindergarten is likely to be easier when kids get comfortable with a consistent bedtime routine before starting school full-time.
“We found that children who had 10 or more hours of sleep per night on a regular basis, particularly before the kindergarten year began, tended to maintain that more optimal sleep pattern across their full kindergarten year,” said researcher Doug Teti.
“This has significant implications for anyone interested in promoting healthier sleep patterns in children making the transition to first-time schooling; parents should do what they can to help their children regularly get most – if not all – of their sleep during night hours before the school year even begins.”
The benefits of a sleep schedule
For the study, the researchers had 220 kids wear activity trackers to measure their sleep habits. They picked four one-week sessions starting in the summer months before kindergarten and then assessed sleep again in September, November, and April. The kids’ kindergarten teachers also answered questions about the children’s kindergarten preparedness and how well they transitioned into the new school year.
The researchers found that children who got at least 10 hours of sleep each night had the most successful transition into kindergarten. The findings also showed that consistently getting this level of sleep was tied to better academic success, emotional development, and learning engagement.
The researchers noted that these benefits were only identified when kids were regularly sleeping for 10 or more hours each night. One night of not getting enough sleep, or trying to make up for lost nighttime sleep with a daytime nap, wasn’t effective.
“Good sleep hygiene appears to be just as beneficial for young children as it is for adults,” said Teti. “Establishing habits that lead to a good night’s sleep before the kindergarten year begins seems to give kids a leg up when making that transition to formal schooling."