If children are behaving badly at home or in school, structuring their bedtime might actually help. A new study points to firm bedtime schedule improving behavioral scores of children seven years and below.
The researchers from Britain looked for links between behavioral difficulties and bedtime schedules, possible influence of bedtime schedule to behavior development during early childhood, and changes on sleeping schedule to changes in behavior. The study is published on the journal Pediatrics.
The authors of the study found out that nine percent of the 7-year-old subjects did not follow a regular bedtime schedule. Through the course of the study, they concluded that irregular sleeping schedule plays a big factor on the child's behavior and also noted that children who sleep late also behave badly.
"Having regular bedtimes during early childhood is an important influence on children's behavior. There are clear opportunities for interventions aimed at supporting family routines that could have important impacts on health throughout life," the study concluded.
The proponents of the study analyzed the data of over 10,000 children who participated in a long-term scientific study in the UK from 2001 to 2002. When the kids reached the ages of three, five, and seven, the mothers were requested to answer a survey to describe the sleeping schedule of their children on weeknights during their school year. The mothers and teachers were also asked to rate the behavior of the children.
Children with irregular bedtime schedules posted lower behavioral scores compared to kids with regular bedtimes.
The study suggests switching to a regular bedtime from an irregular schedule may help improve the behavior of a child. Conversely, when a child flips to an irregular bedtime schedule, parents and teachers can expect a worsening behavior.
"First, switching bedtimes from night to night interferes with circadian rhythms and induces a state akin to jet lag. Second, disrupted sleep interferes with processes to do with brain maturation," said Yvonne Kelly, professor at the University College London and lead author of the study, in an interview with WebMD.
Experts, emphasizing the importance of sleep to children's behavior and overall health, suggest that a firm bedtime schedule must be started in early childhood. A routine must be established to prepare them for early and regular bedtime while avoiding distractions.
"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. This is a very well-done study that in many ways reaffirms what we already know about a lack of sleep," explained Dr. Carolyn D'Ambrosio of the Tufts Medical Center and Floating Hospital for Children in Boston in an interview with Live Science.