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Most parents notice changes in behavior in their children, but do not always connect those changes to lack of sleep. That is because adults react differently; fatigue produces an obvious lack of energy. Children, however, become hyperactive. This was confirmed in a recent British study that revealed that regular bedtimes positively influence the behavior of children. Researchers discovered that children without scheduled bedtimes are more likely to have behavioral problems at school as well as at home.Clock with red and blue hands

Study results were released online this month (October 14) in the American Journal of Pediatrics. One of the strengths of this study was the large number of children in the study. Additionally, behavior was rated at three different ages – three, five, and seven.

Of the children participation, nearly twenty percent of the three-year-olds had no regular bedtime, compared with nine-point-one percent of the five-year-olds, and eight-point-two percent of the seven year olds. Researchers found that the longer irregular bedtimes lasted, the more severe the negative results were.

Additionally, British parents and teachers were asked to assess the behavior of more than ten thousand seven-year-olds. Those without a consistent bedtime not only were hyperactive, but also had more social and emotional problems. Not only were those behavior problems noted, but also the longer they went without having a set bedtime the worse their behavior became.

Not only did the lack of a regular set bedtime affect behavior, but children with later bedtimes also tended to have bad behavior. Teachers reported effects on their relationships with classmates, as well as class conduct that influenced academic performance. Mothers and teachers both reported emotional symptoms and increases in hyperactivity.

Not having a regular bedtime can effects your child’s behavior in two ways

  1. There is a disruption to the body’s natural sleep circadian rhythm because it is slow to adapt to changes in sleep patterns.
  2. Irregular bedtimes can lead to sleep deprivation.

Both of these can lead to changes in an area of the brain that controls regulation of behavior.

Children five to seven need ten to twelve hours a night. An enforced bedtime helps your child to get a regular amount of sleep and enough sleep to get through all stages of sleep. REM sleep helps to improve memory skills. Also, deep sleep helps your child wake up feeling refreshed and able to function their best the next day.

Regular sleep helps regulate body functions. We mentioned in a previous post the metabolic and hormonal effects on children due to a lack of sleep. Sufficient sleep is also critical for young children because their brains are still developing.

Knowing that a regular, set bedtime is necessary is the first step in providing a healthful night’s sleep for your child. Fortunately, the effects of inconsistent bedtimes are reversible; the behavior of children in the study kids who switched to a regular sleep time noticeably improved. Although it may be difficult for family routines to adjust due to a parent’s long working hours (or shift work), the effort is worth it.

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