28 Oct Consistent Bedtime Routines Linked to Better Behavior in Children
Maintaining a consistent bedtime for children leads to better behavior over time. A new study, published in the journal Pediatrics, found that children with irregular sleep schedules have more behavioral problems.
Researchers studied 10,230 children when they were 3, 5, and 7-years-old and assessed the impact of inconsistent sleep routines upon behavior. Data gathered from the children’s mothers and teachers indicated that children with irregular sleep patterns had more difficulty with problem solving, higher rates of hyperactivity, more emotional dysregulation, and poorer social skills. The findings were consistent regardless of whether the child’s sleep routine was earlier or later.
Children with inconsistent sleep routines experience a disruption in their circadian rhythms, which leads to overall sleep deprivation. The impact upon the children’s functioning is comparable to chronic jet lag, which is known for causing increased irritability and poor concentration.
The study determined that the impact was not permanent. Children whose bedtimes became less consistent demonstrated increased behavioral problems. Similarly children whose bedtimes became more consistent demonstrated improved behavioral control.
The study found that “having regular bedtimes during early childhood has 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”.
Based upon these findings it is recommended that parents implement and maintain a consistent bedtime for their children. Selecting a bedtime that is cohesive with the overall family schedule is important as it will increase the probability that parents will be able to maintain the routine over time. Since no evidence was found to support earlier routines vs. later routines, parents should be attentive to what they can realistically manage to avoid fluctuation within the routine. Consistency should be prioritized both during the week and on weekends to prevent sleep wake cycle disturbance.