Children may wish to stay up longer than they’re allowed to. And they’re usually forced to get up earlier than they want to. That lasts for many years due to school. During the day they can’t take naps either because they’re in school and they’re not allowed to.
So what children learn to do over time is to neglect their sleep preferences. (This is a special case of the general purpose of schools of getting children to neglect their own preferences in favor of others’.) That messes with their sleep. It surely leads to health issues too since sleep is so important. And when you don’t get enough sleep you have a hard time thinking and being critical during the day. Which is maybe the point.
School and bedtimes are torture on these points alone.
Bedtimes were enforced pretty strictly when I was growing up. In response, I drew out before-bed routines like brushing my teeth. To this day I try to go to bed much later than when tiredness sets in. I find reasons not to go to bed yet even though I’m tired: I’ll check my emails, social media, start writing a blog post, etc. I still draw out routines like showering before bed. I’ve had trouble correcting that hangup.
One of the ‘reasonings’ behind bedtimes is that children have to get up early for school and shouldn’t be tired in the morning. A major problem there is that children are forced to get up early to begin with. But even if they wished to get up early – for example, if they wanted to catch the sunrise – children should to be free to make the mistake of staying up late and not getting enough sleep as a result.
We learn from our mistakes. I wasn’t free to make the mistake of staying up late, so I wasn’t free to learn from it. Therefore, as an adult, I still don’t know how to go to bed when I’m tired.