Parents who have a strict lights-out policy at a given time are in luck, for a study has found that regular bedtime routine may have a positive impact on their child’s overall behavior. The study was first published in Pediatrics in November 2013, and has resurfaced again recently.
In the study, researchers in the UK looked at the sleep habits of more than 10,000 children, with special emphasis on the times at which they went to bed. “Children with nonregular bedtimes had more behavioral difficulties,” the study found.
To reach the above conclusion, researchers monitored the bedtimes of children over the years at ages 3, 5 and 7 years, as part of the UK’s Millennium Cohort Study.
“There was an incremental worsening in behavioral scores as exposure through early childhood to not having regular bedtimes increased,” it noted, explaining that researchers took the behavioral data from teachers and mothers.
It was also found, however, that the negative effects of sporadic bedtimes were not irreversible. It was found that changing the bedtime for children who had no routine to a more regular one increased their behavior in a “statistically significant” way, regardless of their age.
The same logic also applied to the opposite experiment, as well: “For children who changed from regular to nonregular bedtimes between ages 5 and 7 there was a statistically significant worsening in scores,” the research read.
“Having regular bedtimes during early childhood is an important influence on children’s behavior,” the study concluded.
“There are clear opportunities for interventions aimed at supporting family routines that could have important impacts on health throughout life.”
A study published three years later in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience found that while, in adults, the usually decreased brain-wave activity after lack of sleep “is most pronounced over prefrontal brain regions”, children saw sleep-deprivation effects over more areas of the brain.
“The results show that the sleep loss effect on the brain is specific to certain regions and that this correlates with the myelin content of the directly adjacent regions: the more myelin in a specific area, the more the effect appears similar to adults,” said the lead author of the study, Salome Kurth, according to Science Daily.