Irregular Bedtimes Linked to Behavior Problems

O Health

A study of more than 10,000 children born in the United Kingdom found that children with irregular bedtimes were more likely to have behavioral difficulties around age 7. The U.K. Millennium Cohort Study, reported in the November 2013 issue of Pediatrics, analyzed bedtime data collected at 3, 5 and 7 years, as well as reports from the children’s mothers and teachers. Study authors found a clear pattern of children who moved through early childhood without a regular bedtime and their behavioral scores worsening. Children who were then switched to a more regular bedtime showed clear behavior improvements.

The lack of a regular bedtime may disrupt circadian rhythms (a 24-hour cycle in a being’s physiological process) and also cause sleep deprivation that affects the developing brain, contributing to behavioral problems. Since the effects of inconsistent bedtimes are reversible, study authors suggest that healthcare providers check for sleep disruptions as part of routine health care visits.

Katherine Kopp is a freelance writer and editor in Chapel Hill. She and her husband are the parents of three daughters.

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