Bedtime stories

go to bed

So children who don’t have a structured bedtime routine don’t do as well at school as those who go to bed at 7 o’clock?  Seriously? Methinks someone was a Bournvita short of a good night’s sleep when they were handing out research grants. Wouldn’t you have loved to have been a fly on the wall when they were thinking that one up. “Er, I’m thinking of finding out whether lack of sleep affects children’s performance at school.” “Sounds groundbreaking – sign here.”

I shouldn’t mock. The more we know about the different way parents raise their children the better we are going to be able to understand what works and what doesn’t. So I suppose part of that has to involve quantifying the laws of the blimmin’ obvious.

One thing that intrigues me about Professor Amanda Sacker’s research is that she said she tried to make allowances for other factors that might have skewed her results such as the lack of a bedtime story and chaotic family life. Call me old-fashioned but a house where the kids don’t go to bed on time is chaotic – I should know, I often find myself in the eye of the storm.  I can’t tell you how many grown-up nights in and out have been wrecked by my or other parents’ flakiness as we try to wrangle with cranky kids to get them bathed, Peter Rabbit (short, lots of pictures and soothing) read and in bed in time for dinner, a film or more likely, last orders if it’s a particular battle!

The critical age for Prof Sacker’s group seemed to be three, but I’d be hard-pressed to narrow it down. Take last night, for instance – Katy’s “bedtime” is 8pm, unless of course Britain’s Got Talent/The Apprentice/Any damn thing on Comedy Central that she hasn’t seen 80 times is on, but we can usually count on her being upstairs in bed, tucked up and storied by 8.30. Winter is relatively easy – it’s dark for a start. But last night, the hottest of the year so far, signalled the start of the struggles to come. I picked her up from after-school club just before six and headed to the park for a picnic tea before Brownies – awarding myself seven points on the Boden Yummy Mummy score. Tea turned out to be a bag of Quavers (too hot for my lovingly prepared cheese sandwiches apparently!) and a 99 – with Flake – so that gave me minus two points. After Brownies we strolled and cycled home with a neighbour – so far so idyllic – and arrived at the house just after 8. But the moment she stepped through the door she turned from the world’s most perfect child into an argument on legs. Do I need Dr Sacker and her research to explain why? Not really. It was quite obvious she was tired, hot, hungry and not sure which way was up!

After half an hour of tears and a swift bowl of cereal, she was tucked up with Diary of a Wimpy Kid and peace reigned – just in time for me to catch up with the news.

Still, I’m aware it can’t be a coincidence that the days Katy comes home brandishing a smiley sticker in her reading record or a question mark stamp on her hand (I think it means she asked a good question) usually coincide with an early night the day before.

On the rare occasions that I have been summoned to collect her early because of some ill-defined malaise rather than a proper lurgy, you can bet there was a late or interrupted night involved somewhere. I wonder what tomorrow’s school report will bring…

Posted by Amanda Blinkhorn

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