Children with irregular bedtimes may be more prone to having behavioral problems, according to a new study.
Research published on Oct. 14 in Pediatrics
showed that not going to bed at a regular time each night could
interrupt a child's natural circadian rhythm, leading to lack of sleep.
This in turn could affect how the brain matures and how kids are able to
control certain behaviors.
"Not having fixed bedtimes,
accompanied by a constant sense of flux, induces a state of body and
mind akin to jet lag and this matters for healthy development and daily
functioning," study author Yvonne Kelly, a professor at University
College London Epidemiology & Public Health, said in a press release.
The National Sleep Foundation
suggests that preschoolers between 3 and 5 years old get about 11 to 13
hours of sleep a night, while kids up to the age of 12 need around 10
to 11 hours of nightly shut-eye.
For the study, researchers
looked at data from 10,230 7-year-olds who were enrolled in the U.K.
Millennium Cohort Study. Data was collected from them at ages 3, 5 and
7, and their behavior was rated by their mothers and teachers.
problems were most common at age 3, with one in five children going to
bed a different time each night. About 9 percent of kids had irregular
bedtimes when they were 5, and only 8.2 percent slept at different times
each night by the time they turned 7 years old. By age 7, most of the
kids regularly went to bed between 7:30 and 8:30 p.m.
Children who had irregular bedtimes or went to bed after 9 p.m. were more likely from socially-disadvantaged backgrounds.
who went through early childhood without a set bedtime had more
hyperactivity, conduct problems, problems with other people their age
and emotional difficulties. Those who were put on a regular schedule had
more improvements in these behavioral areas.
A previous study in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Healthy showed that young girls with irregular bedtimes were more likely to have lower math, reading and special awareness scores by the age of 7 compared to those who went to bed at the same time each night.
pointed out that her study also found that behavioral problems could be
improved upon if parents enacted a strict bedtime. Kids who siwtched to
a set bedtime saw improvements in hteir behavior.
appears the effects of inconsistent bedtimes are reversible, one way to
try and prevent this would be for health care providers to check for
sleep disruptions as part of routine health care visits," she said.
"Given the importance of early childhood development on subsequent
health, there may be knock-on effects across the life course. Therefore,
there are clear opportunities for interventions aimed at supporting
family routines that could have important lifelong impacts."