Irregular bedtimes spell behavioral problems in kids

Regular bedtimes are crucial for more than just a good night’s sleep, suggests a new research.

According to the findings of a new study, children who have a fixed bedtime regimen are less likely to experience and exhibit behavioral problems.

The findings, published in the current issue of the US journal Pediatrics, suggest that while a child’s erratic bedtime routine can spell lifelong troubles, the damaging effects can be reversed with a disciplined approach.

“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’s lead researcher, Yvonne Kelly of the University College London explained.

“We know that early child development has profound influences on health and wellbeing across the life course. It follows that disruptions to sleep, especially if they occur at key times in development, could have important lifelong impacts on health,” Kelly added.

The study
For the purpose of the study, researchers assessed the bedtime routines of over 10,000 children ages 3, 5 and 7 years. The details on child’s behavioral problem, if any, was culled through a 25 question questionnaire answered by his/her teacher and mother.

Researchers found that children with irregular bedtimes were most likely to experience behavioral issues including hyperactivity, conduct problems, problems with peers and emotional difficulties.
Furthermore, the longer and erratic bedtime, the greater were the child’s behavioral difficulties.

A child who reported an irregular bedtime at age 3 only scored half-point on the behavioral difficulties scale. But if the child reported an irregular bedtime both at age 3 and 5, the problem score increased to 1 point.

The problem score crossed 2 if the child had an irregular bedtime at all three ages during the study, researchers highlighted.

However, children who switched to a more regular bedtime schedule showed significant improvements in their behavior, researchers highlighted.

“Irregular bedtimes were linked to behavioral difficulties, and these effects appeared to accumulate through early childhood,” Kelly said.

“We also found that the effects appeared to be reversible — children who changed from not having, to having, regular bedtimes showed improvements in behaviors, and vice versa,” she added.

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