Irregular Bedtimes Lead to Misbehaved Kids

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Getting children to bed on time can be a chore, but it could pay off with fewer behavioral problems later on.

Researchers reporting in the journal Pediatrics studied more than 10,000 kids when they were three, five and seven years old and compared reports of behavior issues to their bedtimes. Kids with irregular sleep were more likely to have lower scores on tests that measured their ability to problem solve, and higher rates of hyperactivity, emotional difficulties, and problems dealing with peers. One in every five of the kids went to bed at inconsistent times when they were three years old.

(MORE: The Secret to Smarter Kids: Naps)

Such irregular bedtimes, the scientists say, are similar to the effects of jet lag for the children. Going to bed at different times every night can disrupt the youngsters’ circadian rhythms, which establish sleep-wake patterns, and can result in sleep deprivation. And just as adults who lose sleep suffer from its effects, so do young children. “We know that early child development has profound influences on health and well being across the life course. It follows that disruptions to sleep, especially if they occur at key times in development, could have important lifelong impacts on health,” said  Yvonne Kelly, one of the study’s co-authors and a professor in the department of Epidemiology & Public Health at University College London in a statement.

While previous work documented the increasing amount of disrupted sleep among older kids, who are distracted by computers, social media and video games well into the night, the current study documented that even at an early age, inconsistent sleep times can harm children’s development. The researchers found that the effects of poor sleep built incrementally as kids aged.

Those effects were reversible, however. The children who picked up regular bed times showed improvements in their behavior scores.

18 comments
VeroSalisbury
VeroSalisbury

Did they correct for the fact that parents who impose a regular bedtime are more likely to be enforcing other rules and having stable lifestyles themselves, thus providing stability to their children?  Parents who are unable or unwilling to provide a stable routine for children would seem to be more likely to have misbehaving kids--not necessarily attributable to lack of sleep.

JAHochberg
JAHochberg

This is garbage science, or a garbage article. Circumstantial and faulty causation throughout. This is one of the reasons I don't read TIME, I guess.

supsvcmi
supsvcmi

Ask any parent of more than one child - no expensive scientific study necessary.  Children are schedule-based creatures. Disrupt their schedule and face the consquences. 

keymena
keymena

The basic study of Human Psychology defines the first five to seven years as the years of formulation for any child, and therefore is mainly responsible for the foundation upon which the human psyche is built and developed. If this is so; and there is no reason to doubt otherwise, then it is logical for one to conclude that any child who is allowed to have their way in one or several aspects of their lives in the infant stages, will later on develop attitudes bordering on rebellion. The habit of sleep is no different and therefore should be harnessed with parental authority to ensure that a level of discipline is fostered, and that the child is duly educated on the long term and short term benefits of following this exercise.   

jserachus
jserachus

Isn't this a proven fact already. Lack of sleep makes you unproductive and cranky. Same with kids.

bhound56
bhound56

Isn’t it an equally valid scenario (to explain the data) that kids with behavior problems are difficult to get to go to bed at a set time?  In other words, something else is responsible for the behavior problems, which in turn, make it difficult to get those kids to bed.

mrcircumspect
mrcircumspect

Why is this study so 'full of crap'?  Have you studied 10,000 kids and know this data is invalid? Defend your brash statement ... with some countering data. Perhap it is you that are not open to new thoughts ... insights.

jeremy.scott.indicium
jeremy.scott.indicium

Correlation does not mean causation, this is a perfect example. Parents who do not control when their kids go to bed probably are not controlling other aspects they should hence behavior problems, obviously this isn't true in all cases, just like it wasn't true for all kids in the study, but you can generalize. It's not a bed time issue, it's a parenting issue.

I like this line "Those effects were reversible, however. The children who picked up regular bed times showed improvements in their behavior scores."

Basically they had a parent now paying attention to what they were doing.

kaisershahid
kaisershahid

@bhound56 our son never falls asleep by himself (this includes naps), despite him not voluntarily moving throughout the day. if we just let him pass out, he'd be frustrated and tearing up the house for who knows how long until he completely exhausted.

so we've had a general bedtime that he's stuck to since...3 months? he's 17 months now and knows his routine, and generally falls asleep with no fuss (nursing to sleep at the moment, at some points it was cuddling and being sung to). that might change in another phase of development, but despite the harder phases of getting him to sleep, having a general bedtime has kept things normalized. (we also co-sleep.)

kids need to be guided, and as long as they're comfortable, they will typically go to sleep at a consistent time if you give them a routine. especially when they're not able to start identifying/communicating what they're feeling, the routine becomes a signal that gets them to calm down. some developmental phases may be easier or harder but routines develop a rhythm.

and if in fact a child has some profound issue getting to bed at a regular time and is not getting decent sleep, that might be the time to go to a doctor to help diagnose issues.

ramfroggie
ramfroggie

@bhound56 Well, I see what you mean, but many times the parents give up when the kids don't want to go to bed and the cycle worsens.  We lowered lights, put on soft music, and rocked and cuddled them when babies.  when they showed signs of sleepiness.  They got used to the cues and sleep wonderfully...but yes, if we hadn't made sure it wasn't optional that they went to bed and sleep.  Of course some could have legit reasons it's hard to get to sleep.

And I know several parents who can't figure out why they have difficult sleepers, but really they don't show consistency in getting them to bed.  It is just plain easier to let them sleep whenever they pass out.  I know kids who go around unhappy, eyes all tired, and grumpy, and the parents say the kids go to sleep whenever they get tired.  Heck, I have trouble putting myself to bed when I get tired if I am interested in something...and kids are supposed to do that?  Ours are pretty good at telling us when they are tired now, but still they are kids and need boundaries.

JenniferBonin
JenniferBonin

Possibly, yes.  But there's also a serious movement in parenting where some parents believe it's best to let their toddler go to sleep "when he's ready".  I've got friends who do this, and in practice it means that their two sons go to bed anytime between 8pm and midnight.  Sometimes it's okay.  Other times, the kids are clearly exhausted into that "broken" stage where everything starts a tantrum or tears.  

ramfroggie
ramfroggie

@jeremy.scott.indicium You mean you never noticed if you don't go to bed at a reasonable hour you are tired and grumpy the next day?  That a fairly consistent amount of sleep makes you feel better?  You never noticed that in kids? The behavior is sleeping, and yes, when the parents enforced a bedtime the kids behaved better.

AndreiBilderburger
AndreiBilderburger

@jeremy.scott.indicium You are mostly correct.  However another interpretation (which is the correct one, btw) is simply that sleep disruption and behavioral difficulties are effects of a common cause.  You and I agree on that.  The cause, however, is the vaccine genocide, not poor parenting in most instances.  The EPA prohibits exposing children to the levels of mercury STILL PRESENT IN THE CHILDHOOD VACCINE SCHEDULE IN 2013 because those levels are toxic and cause behavioral problems. Just because medicine has turned into such a bureaucracy that doctors don't know what they're doing any more doesn't make toxic amounts of mercury safe.  So we disagree about the common cause in many cases, though I will agree with you that sometimes it is simply bad parenting.  Just not most of the time.  Most of the time it is bad doctors.

InverseOnethreeseven
InverseOnethreeseven

@AsYouWish2011 Wow, you're like, really smart and all...


Is that your expert opinion based on a complete study?


Gotta tell you...your "SO full of crap" commment makes me think you have irregular bedtimes yourself.


Actually, just reading the summation of the study it seems like they have a fairly solid study with conclusive results.