The wise mother of Andrew Saul, PhD once said, "There are no bad children. Only tired, hungry children.". Not only are her sentiments simplistic, but also true according to a recent report by the U.K. Millennium Cohort Study.
In analyzing data from a group of 10,000 children at the ages of 3, 5, and 7, researchers found that children that had regular bedtimes also had better behavior. And those that had irregular bedtimes often had bad behavior. The data showed too that the longer the irregular bedtimes occurred, the effects were cumulative over time. This data also included the input from parents and teachers as well.
Yvonne Kelly, Professor of Epidemiology & Public Health said: “Not having fixed bedtimes, accompanied by a constant sense of flux, induces a state of body and mind akin to jet lag and this matters for healthy development and daily functioning.”
“We know that early child development has profound influences on health and wellbeing 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.”
In another study also done by Professor Kelly, called "Time for bed: associations with cognitive performance in 7-year-old children: a longitudinal population-based study", children not having a regular bedtime scored significantly lower on cognitive tests such as reading and math, especially girls. Parents and other caregivers need to comprehend that it is during sleep that the brain rejuvenates, repairs, grows and restructures. Children between the ages of 3 and 7 need between 10-12 hours of sleep a day, including naps.
The good news is that researchers do believe that the effects of irregular sleep habits and erratic bedtimes that create issues of sleep deprivation can be reversible. Professor Kelly also advises that sleep patterns and habits be evaluated as a part of routine health care visits.
Establishing regular bedtime routines is one way to implement regular bedtimes. Giving young children enough time to transition between playtime and bedtime is key. And yet experts say if the time is not monitored, the time frame will drag out and defeat the purpose of getting to bed at a regular time.