According to a new study from University College London, England, the more young children go to bed at irregular times, the more they are likely to have behavioral problems. If the children have irregular bedtimes for a longer period, the worse their behavior becomes.
Lead author of the study and professor of life course epidemiology, Yvonne Kelly, said that the study shows that irregular bedtimes are linked to children having behavioral difficulties. She added that, through early childhood, these effects seem to accumulate.
Kelly went on to say that the effects do not appear to be permanent because children who changed their irregular bedtimes showed a remarkable improvement in their behavioral patterns. She added, however, that the reverse is also true.
The study of 7-year olds was conducted on over 10,000 children enrolled in the U.K. Millennium Cohort Study and data was collected about their bedtimes at the ages of 3, 5 and 7.
The study also included answers to 25 questions from teachers and mothers of the children who rated the children as to their behavioral patterns.
The results of the questionnaire showed that children who had regular bedtimes were less likely to develop behavioral problems than those who did not have regular sleeping habits. However, mothers of children who had irregular bedtimes rated their children slightly more misbehaved than their teachers did.
According to Kelly, if you change the irregular bedtime habits of your child, then you are likely to see a marked improvement in their behavior. However, if your child has a regular bedtime and you switch them to having irregular bedtimes, then expect to see an increase in how much they misbehave.
Kelly continued that behavioral problems in children, seems to be connected to the fact that they have irregular bedtimes. This shows up in several ways, she explained. “First, switching bedtimes from night to night interferes with circadian rhythms, the body clock, and induces a state akin to jet lag. Second, disrupted sleep interferes with processes to do with brain maturation.”
In her conclusion, Kelly said that an important factor in the development of children’s behavioral patterns seems to be establishing a regular bedtime routine. She added, however, that sending the child to bed every night at the same time does not always guarantee good behavior.