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New research published in the British Medical Journal shows that getting your kids to sleep at a regular time is good for their brain.

I am the father of four wonderful children, now out of the house. I remember how difficult some of those days when Penny and I wanted to get the kids to sleep but they wanted to stay up. They were night owls; we were more like “morning” doves.

But we were dutiful parents, making sure they brushed their teeth, cleaned their hands (nails, too, please) and read them bedtime stories. Those stories are a critical part of a child’s early learning – study after study has shown that reading to your kids is critical for their intellectual development.

But research also shows that a regular sleep time improves brain power, too.

The British Medical Journal research looked at the massive British Millennium study that has followed more than 10,000 children for more than a decade. Among other variables noted were when these kids were put to bed and how consistent the bed time was on school days.

Parents who were consistent often put their kids to sleep between 7:30 and 8:30 p.m. Other parents often allowed their children to stay up until 9 or 10 p.m.

Remember, these are school nights – and young children really need nine to 10 hours of sleep a night.

The study found that children who had a consistent, regular bed time often did better on math and reading scores as well as other measures of brain power.

Why should this be?

One side of me says discipline is important. Putting your kids to bed at a regular time is part of the “do better at school” contract, which means getting your nine hours of sleep.

But there may be more to it. One theory is that sleep is an important time for our brain to make memories and absorb what we’ve done during the day. Another theory is that maintaining regular biorhythms, called circadian rhythms, make our brain most fit to learn.

Now here’s the most interesting part of the study: A 3-year-old child who was consistently put to sleep early on weekdays scored higher on tests when they were 7 years old than a child who had poor sleep habits at 3. In other words, sleep during that critical birth-to-5 period just might set up a better brain when you’re older.

I know how hard it is to maintain a regular bed time. With after- school activities, friends and family interactions, parents’ work schedules and so much more, sleep often takes a back seat.

But this study shows that proper sleep is as important as a good breakfast. Some parents just don’t have the resources to give their child a good healthy breakfast before school, which is why so many schools now help to feed our kids. But nearly every parent can figure out how to get their kids to sleep on time.

My spin: The more we learn about the importance of sleep, the more I’m convinced that our on-the-go, 24-7 lifestyle is off-kilter. I hear many people brag that they only get six hours of sleep at night, implying they’re proud to be doing so much. But never have I heard someone brag that they get nine hours of sleep. Maybe their smarts are doing the bragging for them.

Dr. Zorba Paster is a family physician, university professor, author and broadcast journalist. He also hosts a popular radio call-in program at 3 p.m. Saturdays on WBFO-FM 88.7.