WASHINGTON – Children who go to bed at irregular hours are more likely to have behavioral problems, according to a new study. The research, which appeared in the U.S. journal Pediatrics, found that lifelong problems could result from erratic childhood bedtimes, but that the effects could be reversed.
“Not having fixed bedtimes, accompanied by a constant sense of flux, induces a state of body and mind akin to jet lag,” said Yvonne Kelly of University College London.
Inconsistent bedtimes can disrupt natural body rhythms and cause sleep deprivation, impairing brain development and the ability to regulate some behaviors, the research showed.
“Early child development has profound influences on health and well-being across the life course,” Kelly said.
The British study analyzed the bedtime data of more than 10,000 children of ages 3, 5 and 7, taking into account their behavioral problems as reported by teachers and mothers. Hyperactivity, conduct issues, problems with peers and emotional difficulties were some of the conditions that were worse for children with irregular bedtimes.
“One way to prevent this would be for health-care providers to check for sleep disruptions as part of routine health-care visits,” Kelly said.