Irregular bedtimes linked to behavior problems in kids

behaviorIf your children are having behavior issues, you might want to think about getting them into bed at the same time every night. According to a new study, inconsistent bedtimes affect children's behavior.

The study done by the American Academy of Pediatrics tracked bedtimes and behavior of children born in the United Kingdom, and found children with irregular bedtimes were more likely to have behavioral difficulties at age 7. The study, "Changes in Bedtime Schedules and Behavioral Difficulties in 7-year-old Children," is in the November 2013 issue of Pediatrics (published online Oct. 14).

Researchers analyzed data from more than 10,000 children in the UK, with bedtime data collected at 3, 5, and 7 years, as well as reports from the children's mothers and teachers on behavioral problems. The study authors found a clear pattern — as children progressed through early childhood without a regular bedtime, their behavioral scores worsened. However, children who switched to a more regular bedtime had clear improvements in their behavior.

Not having a regular bedtime could affect children's behavior by disrupting circadian rhythms, according to the study. Sleep deprivation also causes harm to the developing brain. The study authors conclude that because the study shows the effects of inconsistent bedtimes are reversible, health care providers could check for sleep disruptions as part of routine health care visits.

"Having regular bedtimes during early childhood is an important influence on children's behavior," the study authors concluded. "There are clear opportunities for interventions aimed at supporting family routines that could have important impacts on health throughout life."