What parent out there hasn’t wrestled with their kids to go to sleep when you tell them to? Compounding the matter is the fact that you really cannot force them to fall asleep, or for that matter, stay in bed, leaving Mom or Dad frustrated and ready to throw in the towel.

Not than any of us need validation, but parents can take comfort in the fact that their efforts are not in vain. A new study has found that there are developmental benefits for children who are held to regular bedtime rules and, as a result, get enough sleep. In fact, a regular bedtime, especially an early one, was found to have the most significant positive developmental effects on children 4 years of age. Developmental effects were measured through language skills, phonological awareness, literacy, and early math.

The findings are part of a larger longitudinal study that followed nearly 8000 children to learn more about childhood development. Information was gathered via interviews with parents when their kids were 9 months old and again at 4 years of age. Parents reported their child's sleep duration, and effect on development was determined using standardized assessment tests.

The data is consistent with the guidelines of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine which recommend that preschool children should get a minimum of 11 hours of sleep each night. According to the authors of the study, when a child gets less than this amount, it may predispose them lower cognitive scores in the relevant areas of learning. The information also indicates that many children are not getting enough sleep, potentially affecting their development and performance in school.

How much sleep a child gets is ultimately up the parents, and highlights the importance of setting up bedtime routines and sticking with them, as it's an important practice to positively influence their literacy and language skills. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to set appropriate times to go to bed and establish regular routines to encourage sleep, such as reading books or telling stories.

Sleep is an essential part of healthy living, but even more so for children because of their rapid rate of growth and learning. In addition to learning problems, lack of sleep is linked to such health problems as depression and obesity.

If you have questions or concerns about the amount of sleep your children are getting speak with your pediatrician. For more information and advice about sleep, visit the websites for Sleep for Kids and the National Sleep Foundation.