A U.S. Journal on Pediatrics study has shown that children who go to bed at irregular hours are more like to develop behavioral problems, Yahoo! News reports.
The research shows that lifelong problems can stem from erratic bedtimes as a child. However, the effects can be reversed before it is too late with the implementation of a bedtime schedule or routine.
Why does having a sleep schedule matter so much? Studies have shown that inconsistent bedtimes disrupt natural body rhythms. This, in turn, can cause sleep deprivation, which impairs brain development and the ability to regulate some behaviors, Yahoo! News reports.
We know that early child development has profound influences on health and well being across the life course," said Yvonne Kelly of the University College London who conducted the research.
"Not having fixed bedtimes, accompanied by a constant sense of flux, induces a state of body and mind akin to jet lag," said Kelly. This study analyzed bedtime data of over 10,000 children ranging in ages from three to five to seven, taking into account the behavioral problems that had been reported by their parents and teachers.
Children who had irregular bedtimes showed hyperactivity, conduct issues, problems with peers and emotional difficulties.
"One way to try and prevent this would be for health care providers to check for sleep disruptions as part of routine health care visits," Kelly told Yahoo! News.
If problems are not addressed as the child ages, they can become more severe and setting a bedtime schedule can become even more difficult. Kelly advocates for setting the routine early and sticking to it as the child grows.