Establishing regular bedtimes for kids under seven pays off in better behavior.
Getting children to bed on time can be a chore, but it could pay off with fewer behavioral problems later on.
Researchers reporting in the journal Pediatrics studied more than 10,000 kids when they were three, five and seven years old and compared reports of behavior issues to their bedtimes. Kids with irregular sleep were more likely to have lower scores on tests that measured their ability to problem solve, and higher rates of hyperactivity, emotional difficulties, and problems dealing with peers. One in every five of the kids went to bed at inconsistent times when they were three years old.
Going to bed at different times every night can disrupt the youngsters’ circadian rhythms, which establish sleep-wake patterns, and can result in sleep deprivation.
While previous work documented the increasing amount of disrupted sleep among older kids, who are distracted by computers, social media and video games well into the night, the current study documented that even at an early age, inconsistent sleep times can harm children’s development. The researchers found that the effects of poor sleep built incrementally as kids aged.
Those effects were reversible, however. The children who picked up regular bed times showed improvements in their behavior scores. [emphasis mine]