Why Regular Bedtimes Are More Important Than You Think
A study finds that good sleep habits may prevent or combat bad behavior in young children for years to come.
Danielle, a mom in Pennsylvania, struggles to get her 2-year-old boy to bed at night.
“I try to make regular bed times,” she told BabyZone, but her son “can never settle down.”
Many parents with young kids can relate. A recent UK study of more than 10,000 children found that, at age 3, nearly 1 in 5 children did not have regular bedtimes.
Having a child with an irregular sleep schedule isn’t just frustrating for parents—it can be damaging to kids, too.
Not having a regular bedtimes can “disrupt natural body rhythms and cause sleep deprivation,” which can hurt brain maturation and kids’ ability to control their own behavior, researchers from University College London have found.
“We know that early child development has profound influences on health and well-being across the life course,” Professor Yvonne Kelly, of the UCL Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, said in a statement announcing the study, which was published in the journal Pediatrics. “It follows that disruptions to sleep, especially if they occur at key times in development, could have important lifelong impacts on health.”
The good news is that by ages 5 and 7, the proportion of children still resisting regular bedtimes dropped down to below 10 percent. Those children who overcame sleep issues by age 7 showed clear improvements in their behavior.
Those who suffered sleep problems throughout their young lives, however, continued to demonstrate poor behavior—including hyperactivity and trouble getting along with their peers—by age 7.
Researchers are urging health professionals to check for signs of sleep disruptions during routine check-ups.
“There are clear opportunities for interventions aimed at supporting family routines that could have important lifelong impacts,” Kelly said.
Danielle is considering seeking expert help for her son, who tends to wake up throughout the night and suffers occasional night terrors.
But for now, at least, she’s not worried about his behavior during the day.
“He is no worse than his cousin and others that are his age,” she said. “I am not sure if more sleep would avoid his terrible twos.”
Stumped on how to address your child’s bedtime woes? Check out doctors’ tips on common toddler sleep problems here!
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