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Regular bedtime and children's behavior: important discovery

Tracy Woolrich's picture
Children's bedtime

Early to bed and early to rise makes you healthy, wealthy and wise. That old adage may have more truth to it than originally thought. Researchers have discovered that students without a scheduled bedtime have a tendency to have behavioral problems at home as well as school. Once children started going to bed at a more consistent time however, their behavior in general improved.

In a study published by the American Journal of Pediatrics released October 2013, it was discovered that having regular bedtimes during early childhood has an important influence on children’s behavior. This is good news however as it can be easily fixed through education and supporting family routines that allow for consistent bedtimes.

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During the study teachers were asked about discipline issues at school and mothers were asked how often they felt their child was naughty, placed on restriction, in time out, etc. at home. Additional aspects were looked at as well such as what how often the child required assistance with reading, math and writing. Variables such as income, single parenting and parent education were factored in and the results were consistent across the board. Also, children with attention-deficit, hyperactivity disorder or an autism spectrum disorder were not included in the study. It showed that the children that went to bed at the same time every night were better behaved at home and at school.

Not having a regular bedtime can affect children’s behavior in two ways. First of all, there is a disruption to the body’s natural sleep circadian rhythm which is slow to adapt to changes in sleep patterns. Anyone that has worked shift work can attest to this. In addition irregular bedtimes can lead to sleep deprivation. Both of these can lead to changes in an area of the brain that controls regulation of behavior.

The analysis suggests that the effects of inconsistent bedtimes are reversible. Opportunities exist for education through screening during healthcare visits. It may be difficult for family routines to adjust due to caregivers working long hours. It is also possible however, that once informed of inconsistent bedtime schedules and behavioral outcomes, adjustments may be made.

Source: Kelly Y, Kelly J, Sacker A. Changes in Bedtime Schedules and Behavioral Difficulties in 7 Year Old Children - Pediatrics 2013.