Inconsistent bedtimes could stunt brain growth
Keeping a consistent bedtime for children could be an important element in how their brains develop. According to research published in Epidemiology and Community Health, kids who had irregular bedtimes in their early years scored lower on math, reading and spatial awareness tests than children who followed a consistent nighttime schedule.
The research was part of the UK Millennium Cohort Study, which analyzed the bedtimes of nearly 11,000 seven-year-olds. The scientists gathered data on the children at the ages of three, five and then seven to find out how well they were doing with their learning and whether this might be related to their sleeping habits. They determined that erratic bedtimes were most common at the age of three, when around one in five of the children went to bed at varying times. By age seven, more than half of the children studied had a regular bedtimes between 7:30 and 8:30 p.m.
Overall, children who had never had regular bedtimes tended to fare worse than their peers on the tests and the impact was more obvious throughout early childhood in girls than in boys.
The researchers, from University College London, suspect that irregular bedtimes could disrupt the body's natural circadian rhythms and that such disruptions can cause sleep deprivation, which could undermine the brain’s ability to acquire and retain information.