LiveScience reports a new study published this week by British researchers in the journal Pediatrics has concluded that young children behave worse when they go to sleep at a different time each night.
10,000 children were enrolled in the Millennium Cohort Study, which was a long-term research project examining babies who were born in the U.K. between 2001 and 2002. The babies’ moms filled out questionnaires when the children reached ages 3, 5, and 7 regarding their kids’ sleep cycles and whether their child went to sleep at a regular bedtime. At age 7, mothers were also asked to evaluate their kids’ behavior, conduct, social relationships, emotions, and hyperactivity level.
Of the children who participated, 9 percent had irregular bedtimes, and their behavior got worse as the bedtime extended into the night, particularly after 9 p.m. Erratic bedtimes were also found to have the largest influence on how hyper the kids were, as judged by their moms and teachers.
The Guardian noted that, regarding those kids who did go to bed late, they were more likely to come from a socially disadvantaged background, have a poor routine, skip breakfast, not be read to by parents/guardians, and to possess a television in their bedroom. Thankfully, the study found that the process is reversible, and that kids’ behaviors self-corrected when they got enough sleep.
“Family routines can be difficult to maintain when parents are working long and potentially unsociable hours,” the research said. “Thus policy development is needed to better support families to provide conditions in which young children can flourish.”
Dr. Carloyn D’Ambrosio, director of the sleep center at Tufts Medical Center, the Floating Hospital for Children in Boston and a non-participant in the research, said that “This is a very well-done study that in many ways reaffirms what we already know about a lack of sleep.”
“When people are sleep-deprived, they are a little bit moodier, have a shorter temper and their normal physiological processes aren’t as finely tuned,” Dr. D’Ambrosio continued. “Kids don’t say they’re tired, they typically act it out — most commonly by being hyperactive.”
As a recommendation for parents, Dr. D’Ambrosio would suggest “[picking] a bedtime that works for you and your family… It may not work every night, but just keep trying. Sleep is one of the most important things you can do for a child’s health and behavior.”
[Image via Wikimedia Commons]