As a father of four and grandfather of four I recall feeling a bit guilty when announcing bedtime and signaling an end to the evening’s activities. Actually, my wife more often led the command, with me as her trusty sidekick. We both felt that having adequate amounts of sleep were important in how our children behaved and performed in school.
But was it adequate amounts of sleep or was it the regularity of bedtime? Researchers Kelly Y, et al., in the United Kingdom and the Millennium Cohort Study looked at this latter question in their cohort of children born from 2000-2001. Mothers (see what I mean?) completed structured interviews when their children were 3, 5, and 7 years old and the children’s teachers were surveyed for behavioral difficulties at age 7.
Children with late bedtimes had more mother-rated behavioral difficulties and those with irregular bedtimes had more behavior problems as rated by both mothers and teachers. As irregular bedtimes increased, so did behavioral difficulties through all years. The institution of regular bedtime improved behavioral scores. The correlations did soften when adjusted for other factors (mother’s mental health, skipping breakfast, reading to the child, TV in bedroom, and hours of TV watched).
Well, correlation is not necessarily cause. Journal Watch Associate Editor Martin T. Stein, MD, comments that regular sleeping times may better parallel circadian rhythms and result in more sleep. Alternatively, those parents who can enforce regular sleeping patterns may also have more organized and consistent parenting, resulting in improved behavior.
Marshall Kubota, MD
Kelly Y et al. Changes in bedtime schedules and behavioral difficulties in 7 year old children. Pediatrics 2013 Oct 14; [e-pub ahead of print] (http://dx.doi.org/10.1542/peds.2013-1906)