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Regular Bedtime May Help Improve Kids’ Behavior

Will maintaining a regular bedtime for your child improve his or her behavior? A new study suggests that kids with a consistent bedtime tend to have fewer behavioral problems than...

Will maintaining a regular bedtime for your child improve his or her behavior? A new study suggests that kids with a consistent bedtime tend to have fewer behavioral problems than kids whose bedtimes change constantly.

"If you are constantly changing the amounts of sleep you get or the different times you go to bed, it's likely to mess up your body clock," said Yvonne Kelly, who led the study.

"That has all sorts of impacts on how your body is able to work the following day," Kelly, from University College London, told Reuters Health.

Researchers analyzed data on more than 10,000 children. Participants were part of a long-term study of babies born in the UK in 2000 to 2002. As a part of the study, parents were regularly surveyed about their child's sleep and behavioral problems.

Children diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or autism spectrum disorder, were not included in the study.

The children’s ages appeared to have an influence on whether parents insisted on a regular bedtime. 20 percent of children, aged three, did not have a consistent bedtime. The percentage dropped for older children. Nine percent of five-year-olds and eight percent of seven year-olds had inconsistent bedtimes.

Kids without a regular bedtime tended to score worse on a measure of behavior problems such as acting unhappy, getting into fights and being inconsiderate. The assessment is scored from 0 to 40, with higher scores indicating more problems.

When children were seven years old, for example, those without a regular bedtime scored an 8.5, on average, based on their mothers' reports. That compared to scores between 6.3 and 6.9 for kids who had a consistent bedtime before 9 p.m.

Although the percentage points were small, researchers felt that the difference was still “meaningful.”

The children’s teachers were also asked to be part of the study and to give their assessment of the participants’ behaviors. They also gave worse scores for the children without regular bedtimes.

Kids whose parents said they had non-regular bedtimes on every survey growing up had the most behavioral issues, Kelly's team reported in the journal Pediatrics.

But when children went from having a non-regular bedtime to a regular bedtime on the following survey, their behavior scores improved.

That is encouraging, Kelly said, because it shows parents can make changes to affect their child's behavior.

For an outline of how much sleep children need at different ages, The National Sleep Foundation provides an outline at their website at: http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/sleep-topics/children-and-sleep

A few thoughts about studies:

Studies don’t always determine a direct causation between a subject and an outcome.

While not perfect, individual studies do provide sections of data to see where there may be a link to an outcome. The link is an opportunity to give the connection more thought. It’s not black and white – it’s a possibility.

Some people prefer conclusions to be definite. Either it’s a fact or it isn’t. But many times facts change as education evolves.

Whenever there is a study published that “suggests” a correlation between the researcher’s conclusion and the study’s subject matter, some people simply dismiss the study. Those people want a direct causation determined by the study, one without any doubts.

Studies offer a variety of insights into causation. No one study will ever prove all there is to know about an outcome. But they are helpful tools in learning more about a subject.

Source: Generva Pittman, http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/10/14/us-bedtimes-kids-behavior-idUSBRE99D02720131014

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About Sue Hubbard, M.D.

Dr. Sue Hubbard is an award winning pediatrician and medical editor for www.kidsdr.com.  She is a native of Washington, D.C. who travelled south to attend the University of Texas at Austin and never left.Read More