Regular routines, such as consistent bedtimes and mealtimes, can provide a sense of security, comfort, and control to children and can help them develop self-confidence.1 Routines can decrease behavioral conflicts by allowing young children to anticipate what will happen next and can help ease transitions between different activities and different caretakers. Routine interactions are an opportunity for parents to teach children social behaviors such as sharing and waiting and for children to develop communication skills and self-control.2
Regular bedtimes help to make sure children are getting adequate rest.3 Establishing a bedtime reinforces a child’s internal biological clock, helping them to fall asleep more easily.4 Research shows that a regular bedtime can reduce sleep problems,5 which are associated with lower academic achievement during elementary school.6 Consistent mealtimes help ensure that children will become hungry at regular times.7 In addition, regular bedtimes and mealtimes may positively affect school readiness.8
In 2000, 73 percent of children ages 4 months to 35 months had the same bedtime every day and 75 percent had the same mealtime every day. Fifty-eight percent of children at this age had both the same bedtime and mealtime every day. (See Figure 1) No trend data are available.
Among the racial and ethnic groups reporting, non-Hispanic white children are the most likely to have both a regular mealtime and a regular bedtime. In 2000, 63 percent of non-Hispanic white children had both a regular bedtime and a regular mealtime, compared with 53 percent of Hispanic children and 47 percent of non-Hispanic black children. (See Figure 2)
Children of mothers with less than a high school education are less likely than children of mothers with a high school diploma and mothers with more than a high school diploma to have a regular bedtime and regular mealtime (42 percent versus 59 percent and 65 percent, respectively, in 2000). (See Figure 3)
Children of mothers who are never married are less likely than children of married mothers to have a regular bedtime and mealtime. Forty-five percent children with mothers who have never married had the same bedtime and mealtime everyday, compared with 62 percent of children with mothers who are married. (See Table 1)
Children living in families with low incomes are less likely than children living in families with higher incomes to have the same bedtime and mealtime every day. Forty-seven percent of children in families with annual incomes up to $17,500 had both a regular bedtime and a regular mealtime, compared with 56 percent of children in families with incomes from $17,501 to $35,000, 64 percent of children in families with incomes from $35,001 to $60,000, and 70 percent of children living in families with income more than $60,000. (See Figure 4)
None available at this time.
1K.T. Young K. Davis, and C. Schoen, The Commonwealth Fund Survey of Parents with Young Children (The Commonwealth Fund, August 1996). Available athttp://www.cmwf.org/usr_doc/172_parents_survey.pdf.
2Zero to Three, Routines and Rituals. Available at http://main.zerotothree.org/site/DocServer/ZTT22-4_feb_mar_02.pdf?docID=7296.
3M.J. Coiro, N.Zill, and B. Bloom, “Health of Our Nation’s Children,” Vital Health Statistics 10 (1994). Available at http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/series/sr_10/sr10_191.pdf.
4National Institutes of Health, News Release. (September 17, 2002). Nine Hours of Sleep Key to “Back to School Success.” Available at http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/new/press/02-09-19.htm.
5Ramchandani, Paul, Wiggs ,Luci, Webb Vicky , and Gregory Stores, “A systematic review of treatments for settling problems and night waking in young children.” (2000). British Medical Journal BMJ. 2000 January 22; 320(7229): 209-213. Available at http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=27265.
6A. Kahn, C. Van de Merckt, E. Rebuffat, M.J. Mozin, M. Sottiaux, D. Blum, and P. Hennart, “Sleep Problems in Healthy Preadolescents,” Pediatrics 84 (3,1989):542-546.
7Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Healthy Children, Healthy Choices. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/tips/healthy_children.htm.
8N. Halfon, L. Olsen, M. Inkelas et. al, “Summary Statistics From the National Survey of Early Childhood Health,” Vital Health Statistics 15 (2002). Available athttp://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/series/sr_15/sr15_003.pdf.
In the context of this indicator, a child has a regular bedtime if his or her parent reported that the child’s bedtime is usually the same everyday. Similarly, a child has a regular mealtime if his or her parent reported that the child’s mealtime is usually the same everyday.
Child Trends’ original analyses of data from the National Survey of Early Childhood Health.
National Survey of Early Childhood Health
Child Trends Databank. (2004). Regular bedtime and mealtime. Available at: https://www.childtrends.org/?indicators=8299-2Last updated: November 2004