Irregular Bedtimes Linked to Children’s Behavioral Problems

Bedtime is Important

bedtimeChildren who do not have regular bedtimes are more likely to have behavioral problems.[1] In fact, irregular bedtimes disrupt natural body rhythms and cause sleep deprivation, impairing brain maturation and the ability to regulate behavior.1

According to University College of London Professor Yvonne Kelly, Ph.D., the lack of fixed bedtimes induces a state of body and mind that are comparable to jet lag, interrupting healthy development and daily functioning.1 Early childhood development greatly influences health and wellbeing across the course of one’s life; therefore, disruptions during sleep at key times in development can have serious impacts on one’s lifelong health.1

Data from 10,000 children who participated in the UK Millennium Cohort Study was analyzed, as researchers collected bedtime data at three, five, and seven years-of-age.1 Reports from the children’s mothers and teachers regarding behavioral problems were also included.1 In conclusion, the study found that there was a strong link between bedtime and behavior.1

Irregular Bedtimes Leads to Hyperactivity, Conduct Problems, and More

Irregular bedtimes significantly affected children’s behavior, as their circadian rhythms were disrupted, leading to deprivation of sleep that affected the developing brain.1 As children without a regular bedtime progressed through early childhood, their behaviors worsened. These children were seen to have hyperactivity, conduct problems, social issues, and/or emotional difficulties.1 On the other hand, children who began to have a regular bedtime showed improvements with their behavior.1

The study concluded that the effects of irregular bedtimes built up over childhood, leaves children without a set bedtime worse off than children who do.1 Fortunately, the study found that the effects were reversible.1 Children who began having a regular bedtime showed great improvements in their behavior.1

Overall, irregular bedtimes were the most common at age three, with one in five children being put to bed at irregular times.1 By the age of seven, more than 50 percent of children were put to bed regularly between 7:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.1 Researchers found that children whose bedtimes were irregular, or who went to bed regularly after 9 p.m. often came from more socially disadvantaged backgrounds.1

Switching to a Regular Bedtime Will Lessen Behaviors

As the effects of inconsistent bedtimes are reversible, researchers suggested that health care providers check for sleep disruptions as part of routine visits.1 If such is found, educating the parent on the importance of a regular bedtime could help lessen the future behavioral effects and improve current ones.1

As early childhood development is key to good health over the course of one’s life, interventions aimed at supporting family routines could have important lifelong impacts.1

[1] Wood, J. (2013, October 14). Irregular Bedtimes Tied to Kids’ Behavioral Problems. Psych Central. Retrieved October 15, 2013, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2013/10/14/irregular-bedtimes-tied-to-kids-behavioral-problems/60641.html


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