A new study in Pediatrics demonstrates the importance of children having a regular bedtime:
We found that 7-year-old children with nonregular bedtimes had more behavioral difficulties than children who had regular bedtimes.
The researchers from the U.K. also found that the specific time the lights go out was not as important as the fact that the bedtime was consistent day-to-day. What time did most 7-year-olds in this study go to bed on weekdays?
At age 7 these were distributed as follows: before 7:30 (10.5%), 7:30 to 7:59 (24.2%), 8:00 to 8:29 (34.1%), 8:30 to 8:59 (13.9%), and 9:00 or later (9.1%).
The behavior scores — reflecting mother and teacher concerns with conduct, hyperactivity, emotional symptoms, peer problems, and prosocial behaviors — were slightly worse in the 9:00 or later group, but much worse when parents answered that their kids had no regular bedtime. There were other issues found as well:
Children with late and nonregular bedtimes were more likely to have unfavorable routines, such as skipping breakfast, not being read to daily, having a TV in their bed- room, and spending more time (.3 hours/day) watching TV compared with children with earlier bedtimes.
Perhaps the most important result from the study was that the behavioral changes seen in children with nonregular bedtimes were reversible when parents instituted regular bedtimes! That’s good news, and perhaps an easy solution, for parents who want to improve their child’s troublesome behavior.